Published September 7, 2023

What is it about Tesla that has everyone intrigued? Is it the Car, space exploration, the CEO (Elon Musk), the technology, the shameless marketing, or a little bit of everything? Whatever you may think of Elon Musk’s antics, his inventions, or his personality, you must admit that the guy is super smart and knows how to get our attention. From nearly losing it all in 2008 to becoming one of the richest dudes in the world, Elon has proven repeatedly that he is a force to be reckoned with.

In a recent trademark dispute with Chinese-owned Sino Drinks Food Company (Sino), Musk flexed his muscles to protect his beloved Tesla brand in China. For months, Tesla has been teasing the world with its upcoming beer brand, “GIGA Beer”. This announcement inspired Sino to brew, bottle, and sell its TESILA branded beer with a logo that is suspiciously and substantially like the Tesla “T” logo.  I say suspiciously because Sino is a known trademark troll who has a history of squatting on high-profile brands in the hopes of selling them back to the brand’s trademark owners for a profit.  

Unfortunately for Sino, this strategy did not fare well when he sued Sino in China for trademark infringement. Not only did Sino file trademarks for the almost identical “T” logo, but it also has trademarks for Tesla Soda, and a variety of other names remarkably like the Tesla brand.

After a year-long battle, China’s Patent and Trademark Office ruled in Musk’s favor and found that Sino was guilty of trademark squatting. Sino was forced to cease any infringement of Tesla’s trademark rights, cease its unfair competition practices, and inform the public that it has no relation to Tesla and that its products are not official Tesla goods. Finally, the court awarded Tesla with almost $700,000, which Sino reluctantly had to pay.

What can trademark owners learn from this? Companies must monitor and enforce their respective marks on a global level. Especially in regions such as China, where much of the manufacturing of our goods comes from. China is notorious for trademark trolls who are waiting for a US company to make it big, and then sell their trademarks back to the brand owner for a ridiculously high price. Moreover, if US brand owners fail to enforce their marks, whether domestically or internationally, they risk losing their respective trademark rights for failure to police and enforce against infringing third parties. So, if you notice someone using a mark substantially like yours, get into the action and enforce your rights immediately. Waiting around will only dilute your trademark rights and may ultimately end in you losing all your rights to your brand. 

Kuscha Hatami,

Written by Kuscha Hatami

Principal Counsel, Lawplicity.



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