"T" is for Tesla and Trademark

December 09, 2019
Post by Sarah M. Luth

Elon Musk recently revealed that his company “Tesla” was almost branded “Faraday.” On December 1, Musk tweeted “Tesla was almost called Faraday, as [the] original holder of Tesla Motors trademark refused to sell it to us!” When another Twitter user asked how Tesla eventually got the rights to the name, Musk responded “We sent the nicest person in the company to sit on his doorstep until he at least talked to us [and] then he said yes.”

Brad Siewert originally filed for trademark rights to “Tesla” in 1994. In 2004 Siewert sold the rights to “Tesla” to Elon Musk for $75,000. The name “Faraday” was subsequently trademarked by a competitor electric vehicles company, Faraday & Future Inc., which recently filed for bankruptcy. After acquiring the rights from Siewert, Musk filed a trademark for “Tesla Motors” which was eventually shorted to just “Tesla” in 2011. The name change allowed the company to better reflect the fact it manufactures not just vehicles but also batteries, software, solar panels, charging stations, and other products.

After spending $75,000 to acquire the trademark rights to “Tesla” and an additional $11 million to obtain the domain for, the company began filing for a series of marks. A review of Tesla, Inc.’s U.S. trademark filings reveals the company owns approximately 83 different trademarks. Most trademarks pertain to the Tesla “T” and the names of the various vehicles sold by Tesla, Inc.

Perhaps most interestingly, Tesla, Inc. filed a trademark application for “Teslaquila,” relating to “distilled agave liquor.” Most recently, Tesla, Inc. filed a series of trademarks in connection with its release of the Cybertruck. These five trademarks cover variations of the word “Cybertruck,” such as “Cybrtrk.” On November 22, 2019 Tesla, Inc. filed a trademark application for the mark “Cyberquad,” directed to electric “all terrain vehicles” and “land vehicles.” Tesla, Inc.’s proactive trademark filing for different types of vehicles illustrates that the company learned its lesson about being more proactive with branding and trademark strategies.

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