By on March 21, 2012

Volkswagen received a legal black eye from its estranged Japanese partner Suzuki. Volkswagen had taken a silly trademark fight all the way  to the General Court of the European Union, and lost today, Reuters says. This is unrelated to the divorce proceedings between Volkswagen and Suzuki, but it definitely comes at an inopportune time.

In 2004, Volkswagen contested a trademark application by Suzuki for “SWIFT GTi.” The mark had been granted by the EU’s Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM).

Europe’s second highest court ruled today that there is no likelihood of the SWIFT GTi being confused with Volkswagen’s Golf GTI. According to the ruling,

“OHIM correctly held that the average consumer in Sweden, Benelux, Germany, France, Italy and Austria would not assume that all vehicles, parts and accessories come from the same manufacturer simply on the basis of the combination of the three letters ‘gti’, and accordingly any likelihood of confusion was excluded.”

A spokesman for VW said that his company might appeal. Or not


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12 Comments on “SWIFT Justice: Volkswagen Loses Against Suzuki...”

  • avatar

    So, in Ford vs. Ferrari backing down is “the smart move”, yet here it is a “silly trademark fight”?

    Even though the possibility of confusing a Swift and a Polo GTI is probably far greater than the possibility of accidentaly purchasing a Formula 1 car instead of a Pickup?

  • avatar

    It’s a bit odd since Peugeot has had many GTI’s since the (legendary) 205 GTI of the 80’s.

  • avatar

    If no one else used the “GTI” and it was a VW GTI and not Gulf GTI it may have made a difference. The F150 isn’t tacked on after another name, so I think that made the difference. Name and trademarks aren’t black and white however.

  • avatar

    VW holds the Trademark on “GTI”, not just for “VW GTI” or “Golf GTI”, etc.

    I am also not arguing that this is a wrong decision – I believe customers won’t confuse the different cars because they both use the Suffix “GTI”, as can be seen by PSA’s use of said suffix. So, a good and understandable verdict.

    Just pointing out, that when it was Ferrari vs. Ford, TTAC wrote about Fords obligation to defend their trademark and Ferraris “smart move” in backing off. Yet now, defending ones trademark is “silly”… ;)

    • 0 avatar

      Jumping to conclusions gain.

      Volkswagen DOES NOT own the trademark GTI. They tried to trademark GTI, and withdrew the application, Trade mark No: 000801746.

      Volkswagen owns the GOLF GTI (since 2008) mark, Trade mark No: 0968810.

      Suzuki filed for SWIFT GTi in late 2003, application opposed by Volkswagen, Trade mark No: 003456084

      THAT’S why it’s silly, silly.

      • 0 avatar

        I am no expert on trademark law (luckily) – but the european trademark basically is just a bunch of national trademarks streamlined into a single application process, right? In that case, a single national trademark would invalidate Suzuki’s application for a CTM.

        And VW does hold national trademarkd on “GTI”, at least in Germany (39406386), maybe in other EU countries. (And the US, but thats not really intersting in a european context).

      • 0 avatar

        Can’t Edit anymore, but according to the verdict, VW has trademarks on GTI in the EU-countries of: Chechnya, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Portgual, Benelux, France, Italy, Austria and Sweden.

  • avatar

    Next thing will be fights over the GT label, that should make a few lawyers rich.

  • avatar

    “GTI” cannot be trademarked (esp. since VW was not the first company to use it). It stands for GT (Grand Turismo) with fuel injection. And it is not a model name (until the dropped the GOLF or the RABBIT from the GOLF GTI) but a designation that was used in a whole bunch of models. It’s like trying to trademark “GT” “S” “SE” “i” “GS” “Limited”… Just crazy.

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    Oh Lord! Is this what happens to a black ’91 Swift GT upon trade in? Discount NASCAR meets Fast(ish) ‘n Furious? Well, that’s karma for ya,since said trade-in was for the ironically named Suzuki Esteem,circa 1997.This is a case of Suzuki using any means necessary to escape from the grips of Fahrvergnugen,whilst burning bridges without a boat.Now for the record,my ’91 Suzuki was a “Swift GT”,not a GTi,gTI,nor gTi.If I also recall,YUGO & Croatia,et,al,upon realizing that all that shelling and genocide(O.K Serbia was the headlining act,but still.)was deemed a “big mix-up/misunderstanding”,made an attempt to re-enter the US market via re-naming themselves “ZMW”(Zastava Motor Works.),via a third party distributor(What is it with people named Malcolm? be it Bricklin,or Mc Laren,ya always gotta watch your wallet around ’em.).BMW,sued and lost,with the judge claiming that no one has a monopoly on the alphabet.Even if the product is called ZMW and will most likely,suck.Of course,today corporations are people too, so I may have missed something.Just like the presence of new Suzukis in the greater Los Angeles area….Number of Kizashis spotted to date:THREE.Number of SX4 Sportbacks to date:ZERO.Suzuki,fool,you better recognize.

  • avatar

    didn’t this originally happen in the early 90s? I had an ’89 Swift GTi similar to the one in the pic (well, not that similar) and by 1991, they had taken to just calling it the GT due to heat from VW.

    … damn, I miss that car. Never got sick of hearing, “What did you do to that Geo?!’

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