Audi won a copyright case against Chinese EV maker Nio, with a sales ban imposed on the Asian-based company’s ES6 and ES8 models in Germany. The Munich Regional Court ruled on Thursday that the name of Nio’s EVs are too similar and could be confused with Audi’s own S6 and S8 performance sedans.
The decision, revealed by the German publication Automobilwoche, says that the ES6 and ES8 names infringe on Audi’s trademark rights because they could be wrongly interpreted as being electric variants of the German brand’s models.
The judge agreed that Nio’s model names are factually different from Audi’s, but even so, the additional letter E isn’t enough to sufficiently differentiate them, making them “mentally connected, at least in terms of sound.”
“There is a risk that consumers will assume that the ‘ES 6’ is the ‘S 6’ in the electric version, that the two vehicles are from the same manufacturer,” the judge said. “There is therefore a transfer danger of confusion through association that goes beyond pure association.”
Audi began its court action back in the middle of 2022 when it argued that it’s not about styling similarities - Nio’s models being SUVs and Audi’s model being sedans – but about the similarities in naming. Now, over a year later, the German brand won in court, but the decision is not final, and Nio can file for an appeal.
Gallery: Nio ES6
As a result, Nio is now prohibited from advertising the ES6 and ES8 models in Germany, with the Chinese automaker facing fines of up to 250,000 Euros ($270,000 at current exchange rates) or up to six months in prison for its managing director in Germany if it fails to comply with the court’s ruling. Nio can however sell the ES7 in Germany, which was renamed as the EL7 in the region in October of last year.
Audi said in a statement that it’s “careful to protect [its intellectual property] comprehensively” and that the “judgment confirms that the disputed model designations infringe Audi trademark rights. Many of our models have an iconic character—for us and for our customers. This also and especially applies to our sporty S models.”