You may be familiar with the tagline “Porsche. There is no substitute” from the movie Risky Business with Tom Cruise. Nissan apparently is of the opinion that there is a definite alternative! They recently ran an ad at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the United Kingdom taking on several of the German car manufacturers. Porsche took trademark offense to their inclusion.
The Nissan 370Z in the advertisement displayed door markings showing the number of Porsche, Audi and BMW “kills” the car had at the Nürburgring – similar to the markings fighter pilots make on the side of their planes. Porsche is apparently threatening to sue Nissan over the use of their trademarks, without consent, in this ad.
Nissan has received quite a bit of free press around this matter. I would encourage Porsche and other trademark owners to always actively enforce their trademark rights. But I would also encourage trademark holders to think about the ramifications of their enforcement actions. There are times when a gentle phone call might resolve an issue without the filing of a lawsuit. Or perhaps strike back with your own ad campaign? Who knows, perhaps Porsche did attempt to contact Nissan prior to crafting the cease and desist letter? With the internet, lawsuits that once were relatively anonymous are now blasted to millions who care to read. Something to think about when creating and enforcing your trademark rights.
Kimberly Wieland, Senior Director of Trademark & Brand Services, Corporation Service Company