Audi sues Nio over naming designations

Audi has filed a lawsuit with a Munich court against the Chinese electric car manufacturer Nio for infringement of trademark rights, as reported by the German trade publication Handelsblatt with reference to company circles.

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Specifically, Audi considers the model designations of the Nio ES6 and ES8 to be too similar to their own S6 and S8.

“Like many successful companies, Audi is always keen to protect its trademark rights comprehensively,” a company spokesperson confirmed the proceedings. The opposing party had chosen model names for the European market “which we believe infringe Audi trademarks”. As the legal clarification of the matter is still pending, Audi did not comment any further on the matter.

Update 08 September 2022

Audi is increasing the legal pressure in its trademark dispute with the up-and-coming Chinese electric car manufacturer Nio. After Audi had already filed a complaint against Nio with a Munich court for infringement of trademark rights in the ES6 and ES8 model designations, Audi has now also complained to the EU Intellectual Property Office that Nio’s ES7 infringes trademark rights. If Audi is successful with its complaints, Nio may have to rename its ES series in Europe.

Update 09 December 2022

The brand dispute between Audi and the up-and-coming Chinese electric car manufacturer Nio is entering the next round. After Nio had changed the name of its electric SUV ES7 to EL7 shortly before its market launch in Europe due to Audi’s lawsuit, Audi continues to be bothered by the Nio model names ES6 and ES8 because they allegedly contain too great similarity to its own models S6 and S8. According to information from the German publication Automobilwoche, no agreement was reached on another scheduled day of hearings on 6 December at the Munich I Regional Court. A verdict could be reached at the beginning of 2023. However, it is unlikely that the dispute will be settled: in the event of a defeat, both companies want to go to the next instance.

Update 20 January 2023

A court in Munich, Germany, has ruled in favour of Audi regarding the alleged trademark infringement from Nio. The Chinese company should therefore refrain from using the model names ES6 and ES8, which Audi found too similar to its S6 and S8 models. This is also the opinion of the court.

The additional letter “E” in the Nio model names does not offer “sufficient distinctive character”. What is more, the court found the E currently “virtually ubiquitous” as an abbreviation for “electric”/”electronic”, especially in the automotive sector. The board, therefore, expected that many people would understand the “E” in the contested sign as being descriptive and merely an indication of the engine type, thus increasing the risk of confusion.

However, the judgement is not yet legally binding.

Nio had already changed the name of its electric SUV ES7 to EL7 in Europe, as reported.

Update 24 January 2023

As announced, the Chinese electric car manufacturer Nio does not admit defeat in the trademark dispute with Audi. After the Munich I Regional Court recently ruled in favour of Audi, Nio has now appealed against this ruling, according to a report in Automobilwoche. The outcome is open.

“We think the ruling is flawed,” said Hui Zhang, Vice President of the Nio Group. “Our central point is that from the customer’s point of view, everyone who buys a car informs themselves in advance: on the internet, via brochures and articles in trade magazines etc. Nobody randomly decides to buy an SUV from Nio when they want an S sedan from Audi and vice versa.” They still do not see any infringement of Audi trademark rights by Nio and therefore want to clarify this issue in principle.

Update 27 February 2023

In the trademark dispute between Audi and Nio, the European Union Intellectual Property Office has now ruled in favour of Nio. The EU authority sees no risk of confusion between the Nio model names ES8 and ES6 and the Audi model names S8 and S6 and rejected a corresponding application by Audi. The Nio model names will therefore remain permitted in the EU for the time being. However, Audi intends to appeal against the decision.

In addition, the decision of the EU authority does not overturn the above-mentioned ruling of the Munich I Regional Court, which had ruled in favour of Audi on the issue of these model names – and against which Nio is appealing.

Update 21 July 2023

The trademark dispute between Audi and the up-and-coming Chinese electric car manufacturer Nio continues. The German publication Automobilwoche has learned that Nio’s appeal to the Munich Higher Regional Court against the Munich Regional Court’s ruling of 19 January 2023 in favour of Audi has been allowed, meaning that Audi and Nio’s lawyers will meet in the courtroom for a second time in January 2024. The proceedings at EU level are also entering a new round. Here, the European Union Intellectual Property Office had ruled in favour of Nio in February 2023. Audi, in turn, has defended itself against this – with success. According to Automobilwoche, the First Board of Appeal of the EUIPO decided on 12 July that the decision in favour of Nio would be partially overturned. Nio does not want to admit defeat with this. “We will take a close look at the reasons for this decision and reserve the right to take further legal steps,” the Chinese manufacturer said when asked. (in German), (update I, in German), (update II), (update III, in German), (update IV, in German), (update V), (update VI)


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