Tesla Faces Trademark Challenges in China

by T+B Blog Team on August 15, 2013

Unfortunately for U.S.-based electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, Inc., trademarks for the Tesla name have already been registered in China. Zhan Baosheng has been the owner of the trademark for the Tesla name in 12 categories, including land, air, and marine transportation vehicles, since 2009. In addition, the trademark for Tesla Motors had been registered to Qiao Weiwei until Tesla bought it back in May of this year. The Tesla Motors trademark covers only rail vehicle, sleighs, airplanes, and ships. Notice the absence of automobiles?

Want China Times reported that Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered Zhan Baosheng two million yuan ($326,000) to buy the trademark. He refused Musk’s offer and is asking 100 times that amount (approximately $32 million).

Does this remind you of a similar story involving a U.S. brand expanding into China? Apple reportedly paid Shenzhen Proview Technology $60 million to secure the rights to the iPad trademark in China. In that situation, Apple had earlier paid a European broker $55,000 for global rights to the iPad name, but the Chinese rights had never actually been transferred.

Since Zhan Baosheng’s trademark has not been used for three consecutive years, Tesla may pursue the option of requesting that the trademark be cancelled.

What else, you ask, is in store for Tesla as it enters the Chinese market? Most likely, the issue of domain names. Both tesla.com.cn and teslamotors.com are already registered and owned in China. If you’re interested in the subject of domain names, check out Corsearch’s domain name and Trademark Clearinghouse filing services and stay tuned for information about our upcoming webinar, Trademark Clearinghouse: An Inside Look, on August 26.

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