German court might force Volkswagen to drop ID. badge

The claims over unjustified name use on car models come in waves. The latest in the line is Volkswagen, which faces a court case from a former supplier over its ID badge.

Identytec, a logistics hardware and software provider, is appealing to the court. For over 15 years, the company has used the abbreviation of its name, ID, to market different products. Volkswagen was previously a buyer from Identytec, and the latter is convinced of having inspired the new generation of battery-powered vehicles from Wolfsburg.

Four years later

In an official press release, Identytec says: “The Volkswagen Group, which was a customer of ours, has bought some of our products labeled as such and can hardly claim not to have been aware of the trademark series with the initial element “ID.” To name a few examples, Identytec offers products labeled ID.SHELF, ID.LASER or ID.CONNECTOR. It’s hard not to spot the similarities.

Volkswagen filed trademark applications in November 2017, four and a half years after Identytec’s application. Both companies have been unsuccessful in attempting to reach an agreement. The case has been ongoing. Volkswagen itself opposed the German Patent and Trademark Office in 2019, which was not fruitful ground for subsequent negotiations as Identytec views the move as an “attack.”

Proposal made

The supplier has decided to file a court case because of “the considerable damage we are suffering in the market due to the fact that we can no longer be clearly distinguished as an independent, autonomous provider.” If it wins, it might be entitled to expensive copyright grants. In the worst of outcomes, Volkswagen faces dropping the badge, coughing up the investment for an unwanted but extensive rebranding operation.

As demonstrated by the legal row between Audi en Nio over the use of the badges ES8 and ES6 from the latter, these conflicts are usually settled behind closed doors as both parties gear up for the trial.

In the past, many cases involved Chinese copying behavior; strictly national battles like the ID example are rare. In its comment, Volkswagen says it has made a proposal for settlement, having approached Identytec on several occasions. The date for the trial in Hamburg has not been fixed yet.

At Volkswagen, ID is short for a mouthful: “Intelligent Design, Identity, and Visionary Technologies” while mirroring the abbreviation of the word ‘identity’ itself, pointing to the new DNA that its electric range embodies.

Changing to the code ID was an unusual step for the automaker, which had previously relied on names (Polo, Golf, Passat) rather than letters and numbers. Recently, some high-ranking Volkswagen officials have been suggesting that the iconic VW names would return also to the ID range. Maybe the next ID.3 will simply be called Golf again, without an… ID.


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