Elon Musk may be promising the market debut of Teslaquila as just around the corner (or many), but whether or not the name will stay the same may be a question thanks to issues with procuring the trademark rights. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Tesla’s application for the mark was abandoned on March 17, 2020.
The Examiner handling the Teslaquila application at the USPTO refused Tesla’s argument against any similarities with the mark ‘Spirit Tesla,’ a product name used by a Serbian company in connection with plum brandy. Specifically, the word “Tesla” was deemed to be confusing to consumers as it would not be clear that the companies selling both products were unrelated. Tesla replied to the first rejection, arguing that its brand name had become synonymous with their electric vehicles, thus the association would be clear, but the Examiner was not convinced and issued a second rejection.
“In the present case, Applicant’s TESLAQUILA mark is confusingly similar to Registrant’s SPIRIT TESLA mark in terms of appearance, sound, and commercial impression” the Examiner argued. “Here, Applicant’s and Registrant’s marks share the identical term TESLA; thus, they appear and sound identical in part. Because they appear and sound identical in part, these marks are also likely to engender a similar overall commercial impression, namely, that of the electrical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla…Moreover, please note that when comparing marks, ‘[t]he proper test is not a side-by-side comparison of the marks, but instead whether the marks are sufficiently similar in terms of their commercial impression such that [consumers] who encounter the marks would be likely to assume a connection between the parties.'”
In Tesla’s response, the difference between the two products – one being for agave liquor, the other plum brandy – was also argued as a point against consumer confusion. Unfortunately, the commercial class of goods applied for is the same for both trademarks regardless of liquor type, namely International Class 033. As such, the type of alcohol didn’t give much weight against the legal case the Examiner made. Tesla opted not to respond to the second rejection, thus the application was deemed abandoned after the response period expired.
One of the questions following this news is whether Tesla will proceed with the Teslaquila name without federal trademark protections or rebrand the product altogether. Notably, the all-electric carmaker still has a pending application in Mexico; however, if the mark succeeds in registration, the rights afforded would not apply in the US. The international trademark route also appears to be problematic as another applicant has already filed under the Madrid Protocol for protections in the European Union, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, and Thailand.
If Tesla has opted to rebrand without announcement, any trademark filings are not yet available in the usual public databases. It may be interesting to note, though, that the company originally filed their Teslaquila mark in Jamaica. This is a move that Apple also uses to hide its upcoming product names as the Jamaica Trademark Office does not have an online search function. Rather, an in-person query is required along with payment of a search fee.
The origin story of Teslaquila involves an April Fool’s joke in 2018 wherein a photo of Musk sleeping up against a Model 3 was posted on his Twitter account, apparently hungover after declaring Tesla’s filing of “all chapters” of bankruptcy, including the fictional “Chapter 14 and a half (the worst one).” A proposed bottle of Teslaquila was later posted on his (now deleted) Instagram account, demonstrating that the CEO was serious about producing the liquor, specifically in 750ml containers at 40% alcohol content.
Regardless of the legal status of Teslaquila in the end, it will always be a good story if not also a good drink.