SHANGHAI Dec 19 Tesla Motors Inc has
started offering its poplar Model S sedans in China, but the
U.S. premium electric carmaker has yet to give its brand a
Chinese name due to a long-running trademark dispute.
That has caused a buzz online with enthusiasts avidly
guessing how Tesla will be named locally and even offering
Tesla recently opened its first flagship store in downtown
Beijing and this week launched a Chinese-language website to
take orders from Chinese car buyers.
What's absent from the website, which has similar look and
feel to its American counterpart, is Tesla's Chinese language
name, a rare omission for global brands entering China.
That's because "Te Si La", the Chinese name best known among
Chinese consumers, has been registered by a local businessman
who has been refusing to give up the trademark.
Tesla's Beijing-based salesman Ma Li admitted Tesla has no
Chinese name yet, adding he doesn't know when or whether there
will be one. Tesla's Tokyo-based spokeswoman Atsuko Doi did not
return an email seeking comment.
Zhan Baosheng, the businessman who registered "Te Si La" in
2006, has no intention at the moment to sell the
Chinese-language trademark despite numerous requests from
potential buyers, his agent, Guangdong-based Jinda Trademark Co,
said on Thursday.
On Sina Weibo, China's twitter-like social networking site,
some suggest that Tesla could use an alternative
Chinese-language name, "Te Su Le", which means "happiness in
"Te Su Le can be more readily accepted in China and sounds
luckier," a blogger said. "Don't forget to pay me if it is
Michael Pu, another blogger, disagreed: "This name doesn't
sound right. It's too vulgar."
This is not the first time a Chinese businessman has
pre-empted global brands in registering local trademarks in a
bid to sell them later for a profit.
For example, in 2012, Apple settled a lawsuit by agreeing to
pay $60 million to a Chinese company for the legal rights to use
the iPad trademark in China.
Legal experts familiar with trademark disputes in China said
it might be difficult for Tesla to resolve the trademark issue
unless it buys Zhan out or use another name.
China has rules that protect globally renowned brands, but
that might not apply in the case of relatively new companies
such as Tesla.
Tesla has other problems in China. In a letter to clients,
it said that the price of Model S is not determined yet because
China has not decided on its tax policies regarding imported