Audi has acquired the Chinese electric vehicle maker NEVER in court and won the naming of its electric vehicles. The Munich Regional Court ruled that the names of NIO’s EV models were too similar and could be confused with an electric vehicle Audi.
Audi wins in court over NIO EV model names
Audi first sued NIO in 2021 for protection of its S6 and S8 model names at the European Patent Office, citing that the newcomer’s names sounded too much like its own. According to the German newspaper automobile weekthe court reached an agreement with Audi on Thursday after more than 15 months of dispute.
Although the judge found that NIO’s names were indeed different from Audi’s, the letter “E” was not enough to tell a difference, as it can be confused with an “electric” Audi model.
Consumers might see this as a simple switch from a gas-powered Audi to an electric one, agreeing with the premium automaker. The judge said:
There is a risk that consumers will assume that the “ES 6” is the “S 6” in the electric version, that the two vehicles come from the same manufacturer. There is therefore a risk of transmission of confusion of associations that goes beyond pure association.
The verdict is not final and NIO is expected to appeal the decision. Effective immediately, NIO is banned from promoting the ES6 and ES8 in Germany and faces a fine of 250,000 euros or up to six months in prison for the managing director of NIO Germany.
The NIO models are not yet available in Germany. NIO has launched its first electric vehicle, the “ES7” model in the region and renamed it the EL7 in October.
As you can imagine, Audi welcomed the decision, saying its brands are “essential” and “we must protect them fully.” Meanwhile, NIO is reviewing its next steps, including a likely appeal.
On the one hand, it looks like a classic case of an established brand (Audi) going after the new (NIO) in its home court. However, the names are nearly identical, and the judge points out that consumers will likely be confused if Audi moves to an all-electric lineup.
NIO is expanding rapidly, delivering 122,486 electric vehicles in 2022, mostly in its home market of China. However, the EV startup held its European launch event in October, celebrating its launch in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden as it looks to expand its territory.
Many welcomed the expansion, but German automakers switching their own lineups to electric are likely not happy about the new competition.
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