Automotive: March 2011 Archives

LandRoverLogo.pngLand Rover and Chinese car maker Geely have disputed the meaning of "Luhu" for over a decade.

The name "Luhu" is a romanization of the Chinese characters meaning "Land Tiger" or "Road Tiger" as "land" and "road" can both be pronounced "lu" but are distinct characters.

Apparently there is not a Chinese word for "rover" (unsurprisingly), as Land Rover has been using the "Luhu" Chinese characters since the early 1990s, with some Chinese using "Luhu" meaning "Land Tiger," and for others, "Road Tiger."

In 1999, Geely filed for the trademark to "Land Tiger" with the Chinese Bureau of Industry and Commerce, with it approved in 2001.

In 2004, it was noticed that Land Rover replaced their product description of "Land Tiger" with "Road Tiger" at the Beijing Auto Show.

But when they tried to make it official, they were denied. Since "Road Tiger," in Roman letters, is the same as the Geely trademark: Luhu.

Now the storied British carmaker is suing the Chinese Trademark Appeal Board under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. They want the Geely mark to be repealed for obvious reasons.

LandRover.pngGeely has not yet used the name but Land Rover is taking no chances.

Geely has further noted that their new car model, the FC-1, will not bear the Luhu name.

This is the type of lawsuit that I am sure will occur many times as overseas companies try to protect their marks in China.

It is difficult to say who is in the right. Surely much of the equity with the brand name in China lies in how it is presented in Chinese characters. The problem seems to lie in the Chinese "first to file" rule that allows locals to snap up brands that might have value in the future.

According to Auto Car News, the well known Land Rover mark might have been possible to protect because it is well known throughout China, but Luhu is fair game even if Land Rover was using it in another context.

Land Rover's decision to sue the actual Chinese Trademark Appeal Board (it is actually the China Trademark Review and Adjudication Board) is its best means of getting the Geely mark overturned.

But things look grim for Land Rover. That Luhu mark is essentially meaningless, and the bloggers are betting that the Chinese Trademark law will prevail in Geely's favor.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,