Nissan, Hyundai trade blows over ‘N Sport’ name

It’s the battle of the wheels, stickers and trim packages as two brands go toe to toe over a badge

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NISSAN and Hyundai are in a war of words – well, a letter and a word – as the brands fight for the name they each want to give warmed-over versions of their cars.

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The two brands have engaged in a tit-for-tat battle for trademark rights over the use of the words “N Sport” and “N-Sport” appearing on the bodywork of vehicles they have already sold, or will one day sell, in Australia.

Nissan started introducing “N Sport”-badged versions of its vehicles in around 2016, sporting tougher-looking wheels and darker trim package to boost the popularity of its stronger-selling models, the Navara trade ute and X-Trail mid-size SUV, and the slow-selling Juke.

Hyundai? Well, it hasn’t officially launched anything with an “N Sport” badge on it yet, but it has flagged big plans to bring in a more sporty look for its model line-up, including aero kits, wheels and beefed-up suspension – but no engine enhancements – under the N Line name, not N Sport. 

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Nissan was first to file for a trademark to cover the “N-Sport” brand in 2016, about the same time we started confirming rumours that Hyundai was working on its first N-badged model; the 202kW turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder i30 N. Within months of Nissan lodging its application, Hyundai had fired in a protest – but only after countering with its own trademark application for its version of the “N Sport” badge.

Hyundai has been granted a “cooling off” period as part of its trademark application process – it’s something we saw in the trademark dispute between Ford and Toyota over the word “Edge”. If you remember that saga, Ford wanted to use the Edge name here for its don’t-call-it-a-Territory five-seat Territory replacement using the badge found in other markets. But Toyota had already stuck it to versions of the Corolla and Hilux, owned the trademark over the name here, and said a polite “no”. So we have the Ford Endura, instead.

History has since repeated itself for Ford, with Toyota’s Hino truck division owning rights to the name “Raptor” here. Ford wants to bring in a version of the Ranger trade ute wearing the same name. That dispute is yet to play out, although Ford has officially filed for the trademark, indicating a resolution could be near.

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Nissan told Wheels it was “in ongoing discussions with Hyundai regarding the opposition of the N-SPORT trademark”. Hyundai has declined to comment.

The next stage in that trademark dispute arrives on August 18 – almost two years to the day since Nissan lodged its application.

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Days after Hyundai lodged its protest at Nissan’s bid to grab N Sport, Nissan applied for another trademark application for a badge wearing the N Sport name. Hyundai is disputing that one, too, with the next stage of the trade mark’s application due on August 14.

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But wait, that’s not the end of it. Remember Hyundai’s application for a trademark over the N Sport badge we mentioned earlier? The Korean car maker is struggling to snare it after a series of “adverse” reports – ones that argue against the trademark being granted in the manner of Chevrolet’s struggles to trademark the Corvette badge here – have delayed its processing, with a decision on the badge’s fate deferred. In the latest move, Hyundai has sought an extension of time, delaying any decision even further.

 

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Barry Park
Journalist

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