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European Court Allows Suzuki To Use GTI Name, Too


Five-Door Suzuki Swift Sport

Five-Door Suzuki Swift Sport

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If we gave you just the three letters “GTI” to work with, and asked you to name a car, chances are very good it would be Volkswagen’s GTI. After all, the Golf derivative has been one of the world’s most beloved hot hatchbacks since it hit the market in 1976 (in Europe, anyways), and many of us have our own GTI stories to tell.

In 2004, Volkswagen raised issue with Suzuki’s use of the “Swift GTi” nameplate, as it  potentially created confusion for customers. Suzuki had been approved to use the GTi descriptor (note the lower case “i”) by Europe’s Office for Harmonization in the International Market (OHIM) the year before, as long as it was tied to the “Swift” model name.

After an eight-year delay, The Malaysian Insider reports that the case was finally heard by Europe’s second-highest court, the General Court of the European Union. It found in favor of Suzuki, agreeing with the OHIM that any “visual, phonetic or conceptual similarity” between the two cars was negated by the Swift model name.

In addition, the court ruled that, “the average customer... would not assume that all vehicles, parts and accessories come from the same manufacturer simply on the basis of the three letters ‘gti,’ and accordingly any likelihood of confusion was excluded.”

Volkswagen says it will review the ruling and possibly appeal to Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice. The legal case hasn’t helped the relationship between Volkswagen and Suzuki, which was entered into with great optimism from both companies in 2009.

In the years since, differences of opinion in both business and cultural matters have poisoned the relationship between the automakers. Suzuki has attempted to break free of the alliance, but Volkswagen refuses to sell its nearly 20-percent ownership in the Japanese automaker.

Suzuki views this as damaging its chances to attract other automakers for strategic partnerships, and has filed for arbitration. Bloomberg reports that a decision in the case isn’t expected until some time next year.
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Comments (4)
  1. i would say that VW has the leverage here, and its a shame that the courts ruled in favour of Suzuki. This now creates a precedence that some obscure car company will create a model (for arguments sake lets use the Asian car company "Ssang Yyong"), and effectively call it the Ssang Yong Rexton 911 !!
    using the perverse logic drawn up by the courts this will now be allowed. You wouldnt mix the cars up in person, but calling a 4x4 the same name as the greatest supercar ever is sacriligious, the same way that Suzuki has done to cash in on the GTI name plate by copying it, thus trying to leverage its good name.
    haha After that whole wind bag approach, i totally forgot one of the greatest (alongside the golf) hot hatches ever, the Pug 205 GTi
     
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  2. @WizardsLore, I'd forgotten about Peugeot's 205 and 206 GTIs as well, but we never saw them on this side of the pond. There was talk about bringing in the 205 in the 1980s, but nothing ever came of it.
     
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  3. @ Kurt, im pretty sure the naming is like suzuki's...GTi for the Pugs. the y were amazing little cars. the same length and width as the origianl mino just a bit taller and they were sporting 1.9ltre 4 cylinder engines....no wonder everyone loved them

    and if there was talk in the 80;s it was only ever talk, the Nth American love afair with thirsty and slow v8's was still continuing, and it took a good 10 years before Toyota with te Camry and Honda with the Accord to make consumers see sense
     
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  4. A good and honest judgement by the courts, good on you Suzuki.
     
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