Chinese copycat row

BMW and DaimlerChrysler are threatening legal action over Chinese produced vehicles, which they allege are copies of their models.



The dispute centres on Chinese manufacturer, Shuanghuan Automobile. Daimler claims the Shuanghuan Noble model is too similar to its Smart Fortwominicar and is threatening action if the Chinese car is exhibited at next month’s motor show in Frankfurt.



BMW objects that the Shuanghuan CEO too closely resembles its X5. The western car manufacturer is also considering legal action against the importer of the Shuanghuan vehicle, China Automobile Deutschland.



Mike Lynd, a Partner at Marks & Clerk, a firm of patent and trademark attorneys, argues that the western manufacturers are mainly concerned about their position in Europe.



He commented: ‘What is striking about this row is that the battleground is essentially over Europe, not China. The issues that really seem to be rattling the automobile stalwarts are similar cars being exhibited at a key European show and the commercial activities of a Chinese importer.



‘DaimlerChrysler and BMW have very many community design registrations as well as unregistered community design rights, which will amply protect their models in their key European trading markets.



‘However, they may or may not be protected further afield. Depending on Daimler Chrysler’s and BMW’s IP protection programme in China itself, they may find they are powerless to prevent the manufacture of these look-alikes in the first place.



‘Many western companies have been very poor at investing in IP protection outside the regions in which they trade – and yet are incensed when copies appear. This has been particularly true in China. Only now are western companies starting to ‘cotton on’ to their false economy and to consider the very real impact of globalisation and Chinese industrialisation.



‘All in all, disputes of this nature may make it harder still for China’s carmakers to break into Europe successfully, but they may not necessarily spell the end of copycat vehicles across the globe.’