Who Owns Rover Marque; Who Owns the Rover Brand and the Intellectual Property Rights? Manufacturing Editor John Revill Investigates

The Birmingham Post (England), April 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

Who Owns Rover Marque; Who Owns the Rover Brand and the Intellectual Property Rights? Manufacturing Editor John Revill Investigates


Byline: John Revill

The administrators of MG Rover must be scratching their heads.

When BMW sold the business to MG Rover for pounds 10 it included a licence to use the registered trademark Rover on cars. MG Rover claims that last year they sold all the intellectual property rights to the Rover 75 and 25 to Shanghai Automotive for pounds 67 million.

Shanghai Automotive appears to be claiming that it can build these cars under the Rover marque, but that would be unusual in trademark licence terms, according to Neil Maybury.

Mr Maybury, principal at intellectual property law specialists Maybury & Co, said many questions surrounded the right to use the Rover name.

He said: 'The trademark licence from BMW to MG Rover allowing MG Rover to use the Rover marque would, apart from being personal to MG Rover, almost certainly have contained a clause terminating, or at least giving an option to terminate, the licence on MG Rover going into administration or liquidation.

'Equally, it would be unusual in a trademark licence to allow the licensee to assign or indeed sub-licence the Rover marque to a third party without at least the express written permission of BMW.

'Assuming that the licence of the Rover marque to MG Rover was personal to them, then any attempt by MG Rover, in the absence of the permission of BMW, to give it away to Shanghai Automotive could not succeed. You cannot give what you do not have.'

Mr Maybury said even if there had been some form of sub-licence by MG Rover it would still not affect a clause in the original agreement between BMW and MG Rover that the original licence would terminate on the administration of MG Rover.

Although it is rumoured that the law of Singapore applies to the licence by BMW to MG Rover, any licence under a UK registered trademark needs to be registered within six months if, for example, the proprietor wants to claim damages for infringement.

A check at the Patent Office revealed no such registration, said Mr Maybury.

But yesterday BMW said it had no concerns over the trademark being used by SAIC and would not be, for the moment anyway, cancelling its licence agreement. …

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