July 2019. French car-maker Citroën has failed to keep rival Nio’s logo out of the UK trademark register. On 4 June, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office concluded that Nio’s logo was sufficiently dissimilar to the famous Citroën logo. So Nio has been given its coveted UK registration.

Left: Nio; right: Citroën


Nio, a rapidly growing Chinese car producer with its head office in Shanghai, specialises in designing and developing electric cars. According to Citroën, Nio’s logo is too similar to its own world-famous two-chevron logo.

No similarity

However, the UK trademark office concluded that the two elements in the Nio logo were positioned so close to each other they could be seen as a single item. And even if they couldn’t, the upper part of the Nio logo didn’t look anything like a chevron, the examiner said. Clearly a pretty unambiguous judgement!

On the bonnet

If you compare the two logos like for like, then it’s true that Citroën’s claim seems a little over-argued. After all, the similarity between the two trademarks is very slight. But you might appreciate Citroën’s objections more if you consider how they are used in practice. When you see them on the bonnet of a car from a distance they do start to look more alike. That’s when the Nio logo might remind you of the well-known Citroën logo…

Nio already has two EU registrations, but none of the logo on its own

Now for Europe…

Following its victory in the UK, Nio may now think it has a better chance of applying to have the logo registered in the EU. So far, it’s only managed to get a European registration for the logo in combination with word elements. And of course it’s highly likely that Citroën will file another opposition. If so, we’ll be keen to see what the European Trademark Office makes of that.

Bas Kist