[UPDATE: Since this post was original published, we’ve heard from General Motors, who has confirmed that the original rejection of the USPTO has now been resolved and that GM will be allowed to use the Bolt name. See the statement below for more information. ]
Ever since it first debuted at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year, the 200-mile, $35,000 Chevrolet Bolt electric car has been somewhat controversial in the plug-in car world. Not because of its futuristic design or tech-centric features you understand, but because of its name.
That’s because there’s little difference in the English language between the words ‘Bolt’ and ‘Volt’ when spoken out loud — even less in Spanish — and General Motors already makes a range-extended plug-in car called the Chevrolet Volt. When the Chevrolet Bolt was unveiled as a concept car rather than a production model, that similar-sounding name wasn’t too much of an issue. When it was confirmed as a production car however, many wondered if GM would be forced to change the name of the Chevrolet Bolt to something else.
Ultimately, GM decided that confusion over the Bolt and Volt’s homophonic names would be good for the brand, confirming the name would stay for the production version of the 200-mile plug-in.
But now it appears a trademark dispute means that GM might have to find another name for its next-generation plug-in car. That’s because the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has decided to suspend GM’s trademark application for the name ‘Bolt’. As Autobloggreen details, the USPTO has explained in its suspension that the trademark application made by GM back in 2014 comes with the “likelihood of confusion” over another vehicle known as the Bolt.
Back in January, we explained that the Chevrolet Bolt couldn’t be called the Chevrolet Bolt because there was already a car called the Tata Bolt in India. But unbeknownst to us, there’s also a motorcycle called the Bolt, which was trademarked by Yamaha back in 2012, a full two years and three months before GM tried to trademark the same name for its electric car.
UPDATE: GM tells us it has permission rom Yamaha to use the Bolt Name.
If we had to be honest, we think there’s very little chance a two-wheeled cruiser from a Japanese company being confused with a 200-mile super-efficient electric hatchback from Detroit,
but for now the USPTO is adamant. “Until the earlier-filed referenced application(s) is either registered or abandoned,” GM can’t use the Bolt name.
Update: We’ve just heard from Annalisa Bluhm from Chevrolet Communications, who just issued us the following statement.
“The Bolt EV concept car signals Chevrolet’s commitment to bring electrification to today’s consumer with unexpected functionality and technology. Chevrolet has been working closely with the USPT on Bolt trademark. Our legal staff has consent from Yamaha to use the Bolt name. According to our legal team, our USPT application is back to active status”
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen trademarks and patents get in the way of a clever name for a plug-in car. Just about a year ago now, Tesla was forced to drop its plans to use the ‘Model E’ name for its third-generation, mass-market, 200+ mile $35,000 electric car because Ford had an earlier claim to the name ‘Model E’.
In response, Tesla carefully changed the name of its upcoming 2018 model-year car from the “Tesla Model E” to the “Tesla Model ≡,” a name which carefully plays on the typography used to spell the Tesla brand and yet also allows it to use a name which is close to its desired original.
It’s not clear if GM will pull a similar clever trick to enable it to use a word that is similar to “Bolt,” perhaps adding an extra ‘t’ to give “Boltt” for example, but we’re curious as to what the final name will be if Yamaha refuses to give up its prior and in-use claim to the name.
What name would you like to give the next-gen electric car from GM? Should GM revive the EV1 brand — or perhaps call the 200-mile plug-in the EV2? Or will there be another option we haven’t thought of?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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