Tesla has opened a store in downtown Beijing and launched a Chinese-language web site, but it seems that trouble lurks under the bridge to the Middle Kingdom. Local trademark trolls have already registered the name “Tesla,” as well as other related terms and internet domain names.
According to Want China Times, Tesla has offered to buy the “Tesla” trademark in China for the equivalent of $326,000, but the local speculator who registered it in 2009 is holding out for 32 million. Tesla has hired a team of lawyers to explore this opportunity. Earlier this year, the company succeeded in buying the rights to “Tesla Motors” from a different entrepreneur.
A year ago, Apple was forced to cough up $60 million for the rights to the “iPad” trademark in China, after two years of litigation.
Many foreign companies operating in China opt to change their names to something that sounds auspicious in the local language, and Tesla may end up going that route. Inautonews reported that Tesla plans to use the name “Tuosule,” which is a transliteration of the company’s name in the Hong Kong dialect. Others have speculated that Tesla could dub itself “Te Su Le,” a Chinese term that translates to “happiness in boosting speed.”