Today’s story on “here’s all the shit that makes starting a car company more of a pain in the ass than you imagined,” we have possibly the dumbest trademark spat I have yet seen: Pirelli shot down Faraday Future from owning the word ‘ZERO.’ Man, Faraday Future can’t catch a break.
If you’re thinking, wait, there is no way two companies argued over who got to have the number zero, you are wrong! Everything in the car world is dumber than you think it is.
Pirelli, to clarify, is the tire company you know from its P-ZERO brand of tires that run on everything from bachelor’s sports mobiles to Formula 1 cars. Faraday Future, to clarify, is the Chinese-backed Californian auto startup that hopes to take on Tesla and the world with a 1,050 horsepower electric, autonomous car that doesn’t have a factory yet and is constantly dogged by executive departures, late bills, and other top-down issues.
Faraday Future is a mysterious upstart, but it named its first concept car (not the one that stalled onstage at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the one that disappointed the world at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show) the FFZERO1.
People hated the FFZERO1 because they all expected to see a full production car and instead saw a non-functioning dream car that cost the company $2 million. Here’s how editor Patrick George put it at the time:
We got promises of a new electric, modular platform that can accommodate a variety of bodies, like a combination of how Tesla makes cars and how Volvo, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Toyota are starting to make cars. That is all very interesting, and no doubt the future of vehicle production, if not quite as groundbreaking as Faraday Future would have you believe.
Problem is, it came wrapped in a 1000 horsepower electric hypercar concept with an uncomfortable more-than-passing resemblance to The Homer.
Regardless, Faraday Future naturally moved to trademark this name, and Pirelli took umbrage.
Pirelli filed its official Notice Of Opposition back in November, pointing out that it already has the trademark on a bunch of ‘ZERO’ branded tires, and Faraday Future’s ‘ZERO’ trademark application was stepping on Pirelli’s toes.
You can read the whole notice right here, but this is the meat of the opposition:
Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. (“Opposer”), a society per azioni duly organized and existing under the laws of Italy, and having an office at Viale Piero e Alberto Pirelli, 25, I-20126 Milan, Italy, believes it would be damaged by registration of the mark FF ZERO (the “Mark”), which is the subject of Application Serial No. 86/865,264 (the “Application”). The Application was originally filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) on an intent-to-use basis in the name of Le Holdings Ltd., (“Le Holdings”) a Cayman Islands limited company with a business address of Sertus Chambers, Post Office Box 2547, Cassia Court, Camana Bay, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, but due to a recordation of assignment entered on March 23, 2016, the Application is now listed in the name of Faraday&Future Inc. (“Applicant”), a corporation organized and existing under the laws of California, with a business address of 18455 South Figueroa Street, Gardena, California 90248.
Only a month later, Pirelli officially submitted a document (read it here) stating that Pirelli and Faraday Future were “actively engaged in negotiations for the settlement of this matter.” The motion gave Faraday Future 60 days “to allow the parties to continue their settlement efforts.”
I reached out to Faraday Future for comment but have not heard back, and I reached out to Pirelli as well, but its legal team could not comment as negotiations are still ongoing.
It should be noted that this is not a problem that Faraday Future faces alone. Audi and Alfa Romeo got into a trademark spat back in 2015 when Audi wanted to launch its Q4 crossover and Alfa Romeo protested. Alfa Romeo’s all-wheel drive system, as it turned out, was also named Q4. Audi has still not debuted a Q4 car.
Most famously among these issues was that the Porsche 911 was originally called the 901 until Peugeot argued that its already used the same naming scheme (then popular with cars like the 203, 404, and so on). Porsche was forced to give in and switched to the 911 name we know now.
But still, it’s a worthwhile example of all of the shit a new car company has to deal with even before it constructs an assembly line. Building cars is not easy.