BEIJING, July 9 – Electric carmaker Tesla on Wednesday denounced a Chinese businessman’s lawsuit seeking millions of dollars for alleged trademark infringement as an attempt to “steal” its property and “without any conceivable merit”.
Zhan Baosheng, said to be the founder of a cosmetics website in the southern city of Guangzhou, registered “Tesla” as a trademark in China in 2009, the China Business News said.
He also sought to trademark a T-shaped logo and the phrase “Tesla Motors”, it said, although those applications were still pending following objections.
Zhan filed a lawsuit against Tesla in a Beijing court last week, the paper reported, demanding it close its showrooms, service centres and charging facilities in China, terminate all sales and marketing activities in the country and pay 23.9 million yuan ($3.9 million) in compensation.
An official with Beijing’s Third Intermediate People’s Court, who declined to be named, confirmed to AFP that it had received an intellectual property infringement action against the carmaker.
She declined to provide further details.
Tesla, a groundbreaking manufacturer which has stressed that its Model S battery powered car has the same base price in China as in the US, slammed the lawsuit.
“There can be no legitimate dispute that Tesla created and used these trademarks long before Mr Zhan attempted to steal them from us in China,” it said in a statement.
“Since Mr Zhan does not rightfully own the trademark at issue, it follows that his lawsuit is without any conceivable merit.”
Two separate Chinese authorities have previously cancelled the trademark “improperly obtained” by Zhan, and the litigation was a “last ditch effort in his unsuccessful scheme”, it added.
Tesla has also filed two lawsuits against Zhan “to obtain recompense for his theft of our property”, it said.
The firm’s China business has not been affected by the dispute, it added, and the company was continuing to sell and deliver cars in the country, the world’s biggest auto market.
Zhan did not respond to a request for comment by AFP.
Trademark and patent infringement are rife in China and foreign companies frequently complain of slack intellectual property rights protection by the government.
In a high profile case in 2012, US technology giant Apple paid Chinese computer maker Shenzhen Proview Technology $60 million to settle a long-running dispute over the “iPad” name, whose ownership was claimed by both companies.
Tesla, headed by former Paypal entrepreneur Elon Musk, said last month it was giving up its patents to spur development of electric vehicle technology.