A Chinese manufacturer has staked its claim to one of the most famous names in British motoring history as it takes legal action against a company in Worcestershire.
The Nanjing Automobile Corporation told a High Court judge that it acquired the rights to the MG trademarks and logos when it bought the assets of the failed MG Rover from administrators in 2005.
It is seeking an order to stop a company using the famous octagonal logo and name on its MG X POWER supercar.
Iain Purvis QC, representing the Chinese company, told judge Sir William Blackburne that MG Sports and Racing Europe, based in Tenbury Wells, was infringing the marks and using identical signs not permitted by trade mark laws.
He said Nanjing Automobile Corporation “have made great strides” in reviving the MG brand in the UK, with the Longbridge plant manufacturing again and a major new car launch planned for next year.
“The defendants have made and are threatening to continue to make and sell cars using the mark ‘MG’, the distinctive octagonal MG logo and the mark ‘MG X POWER’.”
He said the British company admits this was likely to cause confusion but claim they are entitled to use the mark because they had bought the rights to it from liquidators of the MG Rover Group in 2007. “Not only had all the relevant rights been sold to NAC in 2005, they were explicitly excluded from the sale to the defendants in 2007.”
When the company was acquired by a group of Midlands businessmen in 2000, a small number of specialist “super cars” were produced by a subsidiary of MG Rover Group - MG Sports and Racing Ltd. Although there was no formal consent, the subsidiary had consent to use the mark at that time but the trade marks were owned, not by MG Sports and Racing, but MG Rover Group, said Mr Purvis.
When MG Rover went into administration, so too did MG Sports and Racing and NAC had no interest in buying the large number of spare parts and chassis on the shelves of the factory in Italy where the MG X POWER was built. The sale agreement with NAC excluded the MG Sports and Racing business but not the trade marks.
The defendants are claiming that the trade mark rights for their car had never been acquired by NAC, giving the liquidator the right to sell them off.