Electric carmaker Tesla Motors’ plans to enter the Chinese auto market have hit a roadblock (hah!) after a notorious trademark troll claimed to own domestic rights to the name, Reuters reports.
Tesla had planned to launch a flagship showroom in Beijing early this year, but has been stymied by Zhan Baosheng, a Chinese businessman who claims to have been using the name ‘Tesla Motors’ for his company since 2006. Zhan’s website features pictures of cars which look “remarkably like” Tesla’s, using an identical logo and slogan as the American car manufacturer.
Zhan is demanding over 180 million yuan in exchange for relinquishing his rights to the mark. Despite Zhan’s clear intention to extort money from his American “counterpart”, legal experts suggest that it might be easier (and cheaper) for Tesla to just buy him out rather than fight the issue in court.
“In the e-vehicle market, everyone knows Tesla. But the burden is on Tesla to prove that its trademark is recognised by car customers (in general), and that it has used and promoted the trademark for sufficient time period in China in order to be eligible for well-known trademark determination,” Vincent Wang, a Shanghai-based lawyer told Reuters.
Last year, Apple settled for 360 million yuan in a similar case where a Chinese company claimed to own domestic rights to the ‘iPad’ mark. (It should be noted that in the past Apple hasn’t exactly distinguished itself over intellectual property matters, engaging in a fair bit of copyright and trademark trolling itself.)