A senior Chinese official with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) said today that Proview Technology, not Apple, owned the “iPad” trademark. The comment suggests Apple could actually lose the use of the iPad name in the world’s most populous nation, according to Reuters.

The latest news concerning the long-running saga over who owns the iPad trademark in China took a decidedly negative turn, for Apple anyway.

In the first public comments by a Chinese official over the squabble, Fu Shuangjian, a deputy director of SAIC says:

According to the … provisions of the China Trademark Law, currently Shenzhen Proview is the legal registrant of the iPad trademark. This case has a huge impact and the final court ruling would directly influence who owns the iPad trademark. The commerce department will (take the matter) very seriously.

Fu’s department governs market regulation and supervision in China.

These comments, which sound benign, could actually signal how a Chinese court could soon rule.

As you may recall, Proview Electronics said it was bullied by Apple “with oppression, fraud and/or malice,” when it agreed to sell its worldwide iPad trademark in 2009 for just $55,000. At the time, Proview believed it was selling the name to a “special purpose” entity, IP Application Development Limited. Only later, when the first-generation iPad was released, was this entity confirmed to be a front for the technology giant.

Since then, Proview has sued Apple in China and in the U.S. While the case has yet to proceed here, it is definitely moving forward in Beijing.

Last week, we reported that Proview and Apple were hoping to resolve the case in China out of court. However, those talks have not lead to any decisions. Until they do, there is no telling what might happen.

For their part, Apple seems so determined to win this fight, they’ve decided not to offer the company’s third generation iPad in China, at least not anytime soon.

What happens if Apple loses in China?

If Proview’s claim proves successful in China, it could mean Apple will be forced to stop using the iPad name on any product in that country. However, a ruling such as this would have no legal standing elsewhere. Still, a Proview victory in China could influence courts in this country and abroad.

While we’re still confident both sides will come together and resolve their issues, comments such as those from Fu suggest no immediate resolution is coming. In fact, today it appears less likely Apple would see a ruling in their favor if it were left to a Chinese court to decide who owns the iPad trademark.

Could Apple really lose the iPad trademark in China, and if so, do you think it could influence courts in the U.S. and elsewhere?