• Planned Use of Q Is Cue to Sue
  • April 12, 2005
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • Nissan North America Inc. sued Audi of America Inc. late last month in a Michigan federal court over Audi's intended use of the letter Q as a prefix to name some new SUVs.

    Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand has been using the letter Q, followed by other letters and numerals, since it debuted in 1989. Infiniti started with the Q45, and it now also has trademarked QX56, QX4 and "the new Q." No other automaker has tried to name a vehicle Q-anything since Infiniti was launched -- until now.

    Audi, which has previously been partial to the prefix A, with the A3, A4, etc., recently announced its intention to release SUVs named the Q7 and Q5 between 2006 and 2009. In anticipation of the release of the Q7 in March 2006, Audi's Web site has even started a campaign called Q7 Globe.

    Audi's use of the Q "is likely to cause confusion, deception or mistake among customers," Nissan alleges in its lawsuit. "We own the trademark right to the letter Q already just based on longtime use," said an Infiniti spokesman.

    Significance: The Nissan suit appears to be one of the first lawsuits over an alphanumeric prefix. The lawsuit could have implications for other luxury brands that go by various alphanumeric designations, such as Mercedes, which has the C-class, M-class, etc.; BMW, which has its 3-, 5-, and 7-series; Cadillac, with its STS, XLR, and SRX; and Jaguar, with X-, S-, and XJ-types. And of course, the Nissan has the cult sports car known simply as the Z since way back when the company was called Datsun.