14 November 2018Trademarks

Elon Musk's 'Teslaquila' raises Mexican origin concerns

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, may soon be facing a showdown against Mexico’s Tequila producers over his attempts to trademark alcoholic drink ‘Teslaquila’.

Teslaquila first made its appearance earlier this year in an April Fools Day tweet from Musk, who said that Tesla was going bankrupt and that he had been found “passed out against a Tesla Model 3, surrounded by 'Teslaquila' bottles”.

Then, on October 12, Musk tweeted “Teslaquila coming soon” with an accompanying “visual approximation” of a red and white label featuring the Tesla logo and a caption stating “100 percent Puro de Agave”.

Just days before the "coming soon" tweet, Tesla applied to register ‘Teslaquila’ as a trademark at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), covering distilled agave liquor and distilled blue agave liquor in class 33.

Tesla appears to have initially applied for the trademark in Jamaica in April this year and is asserting a US priority date based on the Jamaican application.

But, it may not be plain-sailing for Musk— Reuters today reported that Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) claimed that the “name ‘Teslaquila’ evokes the word Tequila ... (and) Tequila is a protected word”.

The CRT ensures that Tequila producers comply with certain standards, including strict adherence to rules of origin. Selected municipalities within only five Mexican states can grow the agave and produce Tequila.

“If it wants to make 'Teslaquila' viable as a tequila it would have to associate itself with an authorised tequila producer, comply with certain standards and request authorisation from Mexico’s Industrial Property Institute (IMPI) [to use the appellation of origin],” said the CRT in a statement provided to Reuters.

The CRT added that if Tesla doesn’t fulfil these obligations, the company would be making unauthorised use of the appellation of origin.

IMPI can authorise the use of the Tequila name once certain legal and technical requirements are met. The office can sanction companies that have illegally used the appellation of origin (a special kind of geographical indication).

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