German carmaker Volkswagen has lost a European Union court battle against Japanese auto producer Suzuki over the latter's use of the GTI brand. Suzuki is allowed to keep its SWIFT GTi.
Japanese compact car specialist Suzuki beat rival Volkswagen of Germany on Wednesday when the European Court of Justice ruled that Suzuki's use of the GTI brand did not violate international trademark regulations.
Back in 2003, the EU Trademark Office accepted the Japanese auto maker's application to register its SWIFT GTi brand despite VW's claim that GTI was largely associated with the Wolfsburg-based firm's Golf GTI series, prompting the German carmaker to appeal the decision.
But the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg found there was no risk whatsoever of confusing VW's and Suzuki's grand turismo injection models, with GTI normally being used to characterize a sporty car with a highly efficient injection engine.
"Risks of any visual, phonetic or conceptual similarity between the marks at issue are largely compensated or even entirely countered by the fact that in Suzuki's case the GTI brand is registered alongside the model name SWIFT," the court said in a statement.
GTI brand widespread
The judges also cited widespread use of the initials GTI by numerous other car manufacturers throughout Europe, including Rover, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Toyota.
The use of the GTI brand is not the only bone of contention between Volkswagen and Suzuki which entered a strategic alliance in 2009 when VW bought a 19.89-percent stake in the Japanese carmaker.
The alliance was originally intended to help Volkswagen expand in India where Suzuki had experience and sales success.
But the partnership crumbled fast, and Suzuki initiated arbitration proceedings against the Volkswagen Group at the London-based International Chamber of Commerce in November of last year. It wants to force VW to sell back its stake completely.
hg / mll (Reuters, AFP, dpa)