Tesla Motors has begun offering Model S sedans in China without a local name for its brand because of an old trademark dispute. Tesla recently inaugurated its flagship store in downtown Beijing and this week launched a Chinese-language website to take orders from local customers.
However, the website doesn’t include Tesla’s Chinese language name, a rare omission for global brands present in the world’s largest car market. Tesla originally wanted to use “Te Si La”, the Chinese name best known among local consumer, but the name has been registered by a Chinese businessman who has been refusing to give up the trademark.
Zhan Baosheng registered “Te Si La” in 2006 and has no intentions to sell the trademark despite a series of requests from potential buyers, his agent said. According to a Tesla salesman quoted by Reuters, the carmaker has no Chinese name yet and there’s no information regarding when or whether there will be one.
A quick solution for Tesla to end this problem would be to use another name or buy the trademark from the Chinese businessman, but the latter may prove to be a costly move. In 2012, Apple settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay $60 million (€43.8 million) to a Chinese company for the legal rights to use the iPad trademark in China.
The country has rules that protect globally renowned brands, but in the case of relatively new companies such as Tesla, those might not apply. Another reason to worry about for the EV maker is that the price of the Model S is not determined yet because China has not decided on its tax policies for imported electric cars.
By Dan Mihalascu