Audi took over the Chinese EV maker Nio in a court case in China of EV model names. The Munich Regional Court ruled that the names of Nio EV models were too similar. They were said to be similar to the electric vehicle model names of Audi.
Audi initially sued NIO in 2021 over the protection of its S6 and S8 model names at the European Patent Office, citing the newcomer’s names sound too much like its own. According to the German newspaper Automobilwoche, the court agreed with Audi on Thursday after over a 15-month-long battle. The German court has ruled that two electric NIO SUVs, the ES6 and ES8, sound too similar to the German automaker’s existing S6 and S8 models.
Although the judge did note that NIO’s names were, in fact, different than Audi’s, the letter “E” was not enough to distinguish a difference because it can be confused with an “electric” Audi model. Consumers may see this as simply a change from a gas-powered Audi to an electric one, agreeing with the premium automaker. The judge said, “There is a risk that consumers will assume that the ‘ES 6’ is the 6’ in the electric version, that the two vehicles are from the same manufacturer. There is therefore a transfer danger of confusion through association that goes beyond pure association.”
Nio EV models
The judgment is not final, and it’s expected NIO will appeal the decision. As of right now, NIO is prohibited from advertising the ES6 and ES8 in Germany and faces a fine of 250,000 euros (roughly $270,000) or up to six months in prison for the managing director of NIO Germany. The NIO models are yet to be available in Germany. NIO did launch its first EV, the “ES7” model, in the region, renaming it to EL7 in October.
Audi welcomed the decision, saying its brands are “of central importance” and “we must protect them comprehensively.” Meanwhile, NIO is examining its next steps, including a likely appeal. On the one hand, it looks like a classic case of an established brand, Audi, picking on the new brand, NIO, in its home court. However, the names are nearly identical, and the judge makes a good point that consumers will likely get confused as Audi transitions to an all-electric lineup. NIO has been expanding rapidly, delivering 122,486 EVs in 2022, primarily in its home market of China. But, the EV startup held its European launch event in October, celebrating its launch in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden, as it looks to expand its territory.