Here's a car name we prepared earlier...

8 February 2008

Land Rover LRXThe other day we were rummaging among the trademark applications at the UK Intellectual Property Office – motivated mainly by the notion that BMW might have sought to register a name for its upcoming fourth brand and rumoured electric car.

Now, you might assume that BMW would be careful to keep a name under wraps before using it in anger, but you’d be wrong. Companies are caught in a dilemma: a registered trademark has a real financial value for a firm, but gaining one is a drawn-out process. They want to keep names quiet, but then what will they do if a rival beats them to the punch and registers the same name ahead of them?

The result is that sometimes the first place you’ll see a new name is in the Trademark Journal – a published list of applications that are still awaiting approval. They’re published so that intellectual property executives can keep abreast of developments among rivals and challenge applications if they think they might infringe their own rights. For example, if we were to try to register the brand “Blue Oval”, it’s fair to assume that Ford might want to have a word.

In practice, this means that pictures of Land Rover’s LRX hybrid 4x4 concept might have leaked in mid December, but the name LRX was on trademark books on 31 August 2007. Nobody would have known the significance of the name, it’s true, but the name was there all the same – in black and white.

Trawling back through the past 12 months of the Journal reveals one clear pattern. Citroen is hoping to register a whole heap of new brands. It seems safe to guess that either the motor shows are going to be packed with new Citroen concepts, or the French company is about to abandon its C1 to C6 plain-Jane labelling.

In recent months Citroen has sought to trademark: Chlorophyle; Cachet; Torpedo; Bazooka; Babylone; High Rider; Baraka; and Ultimum.

Some of these proposed brands have obvious associations, but others are more obscure. Chlorophyle is simply the French world for chlorophyll, the green chemical that gives grass and leaves their colour - so an eco-friendly brand, clearly. Baraka, on the other hand, is a French slang word meaning lucky, as in “you jammy sod”.

Torpedo, meanwhile, is a brand from Citroen’s past: the company first offered Citroen Torpedo coup├ęs in the 1920s. Torpedo would make a great name if Peugeot-Citroen decides to create a double-chevron edition of the upcoming Peugeot 308 RC Z. As would Bazooka for that matter.

Among the other interesting tidbits in the Journal is the word Phoenix, sought as an automotive trade name by Ford. “Ford Phoenix” does have a ring to it – assuming the company can indeed rise above the red ink that’s currently burning up its balance sheet.

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