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Tesla Motors Trademark in China is Not Tesla Motors’, Yet

Tesla Motors' Paper Tiger Competition in China
Tesla Motors’ Paper Tiger Competition in China

Last week, we mentioned Tesla Motors’ push into China, the fastest-growing automobile market in the world, but they have quite a battle ahead of them if they’re going to do business, there.

Of course, there’s no doubt that Tesla Motors has a fine electric vehicle, and nouveau riche Chinese are already showing interest in the brand. The Tesla Model S has an air of exclusivity that the iPad and iPhone have had for years, as long as you can find a genuine Apple product.

Why bring up Apple? Well, it’s already well-known that copycats abound in China, and you can easily buy an iPad or iPhone for one-tenth the price [and one-tenth the quality!]. Could the same happen to Tesla Model S? Should we be looking forward to a Chinese knockoff Tesler Model SS?

While this still hasn’t happened, we think, Chinese trolls have already bought up Tesla Motors stuff, such as the trademark and domain names, such as tesla.com.cn, which is just like the real thing, but totally isn’t.

Of course, big money is the point, and domain names for famous companies can be registered for just a few bucks a year and then sold for millions of dollars. The same goes for trademarks. In the case of Apple, after two years of failed legal action, $60 million was paid to Proview, in Shenzhen, China, for rights to the iPad trademark.

Tesla Motors may have a similar fate if legal action doesn’t pan out. One particular troll in China, Zhan Baosheng, registered his own Tesla trademark in 2009, covering twelve categories in land, air, and marine transportation, blocking the real Tesla Motors from access to the trademark. Zhan refused to sell rights to the trademark for anything less than some $325 million.

Genuine Tesla Motors may have one advantage, legally speaking, if it can prove that Zhan hasn’t been conducting any real research and development, manufacturing, or sales of electric vehicles under the Tesla trademark that he registered in China. If Genuine Tesla Motors can prove this, then China could strip Zhan of all rights to the trademark, allowing the real Tesla Motors to operate under the its own name in China.

Image © tesla.com.cn [whatever that is]

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