On Wednesday, March 21st, the General Court of the European Union (EU) ruled in favor of Suzuki, Volkswagen suffered a legal defeat over its alleged brand infringement case against the Japanese carmaker.
The two companies are embroiled in a separate arbitration battle over whether Volkswagen may be forced to divest its near 20% stake in Suzuki, bought for €1.7 billion as part of a broad alliance agreed more than two years ago.
Back in 2004 VW contested the 2003 application granted by the EU’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), which gave Suzuki the right to use the vehicle nameplate “SWIFT GTi” as a trademark for a derivative of its small car. The court ruled out VW’s accusation that the Suzuki version may be confused with its own high-performance Golf GTI.
“Similarly, 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,” the court said in a statement.
VW declared that it would review the decision and potentially seek an appeal with the ECJ.