Electric carmaker Tesla hits roadblock in China over trademark

Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:44am EDT
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By Norihiko Shirouzu and Samuel Shen

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Popular electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc's (TSLA.O: Quote) plans to enter the world's biggest auto market have stalled after a businessman in China claimed trademark rights to the name, people close to the California-based company have told Reuters.

The maker of the best-selling U.S. electric car, the premium Model S sedan with a price tag of $70,000, had originally hoped to launch a flagship showroom in Beijing at the start of the year, according to three sources, but has had to put that idea on hold due in part to the trademark issue.

As a result, the 10-year-old company's first shop-front in China, at the Parkview Green Fangcaodi mall in the capital, sits boarded up. While there is no Tesla sign, the shop is adorned with billboards of the Model S, which was launched in the United States last year.

In addition to the trademark issue, Tesla has yet to complete product registration with Chinese authorities enabling the sale of the Model S, although one of the sources said Tesla was almost through with the process.

Kingston Chang, general manager of Tesla China, did not respond to requests for comment.

Atsuko Doi, a Tokyo-based Tesla spokeswoman, said the company had this week begun taking "reservations" for the battery-powered Model S in China. The company opened its first Asian showroom in Tokyo in 2010.

"We are planning to open a Beijing store this year," Doi said in an email this week, without providing further details.

Zhan Baosheng, the businessman in the southern China province of Guangdong, owns the "Tesla" trademark in China, according to his agent who processed the papers to register the name with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.   Continued...

The logo for Tesla Motors is shown at the company headquarters in San Carlos, California in this June 30, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith