A Chinese firm which claims that it owns the iPad trademark in China is to ask customs officials to block shipments of Apple's iconic device in a move that could potentially disrupt the technology giant's supply chain.

If Shenzhen-based Proview succeeds, it would be a major blow to the Californian company's sales, as all of its worldwide supplies of iPads come from the country. The move could, in theory, lead to serious shortages of iPads around the world.

It would also be a major blow for the company in what is Apple's fastest-growing market. Earlier this week, there were media reports of retailers in some Chinese cities removing iPads from their shelves after local authorities banned their sale.

Apple says it bought the rights to the name years ago and insists it is operating entirely legally. But Proview, which last year won a judgment in a Chinese court which said it owned the name in China, has claimed otherwise and, according to local media reports, is seeking up to 10 billion yuan (£1bn) in compensation from the US firm. Apple, which is no slough when it comes to protecting its own intellectual property rights, has appealed the decision.

The row over who owns the name iPad in China is another example of how thorny copyright and trademark issues are in China, which is rife with piracy but also learning fast when it comes to beating the big international companies at their own game in terms of intellectual property rights.