Car sharing scheme Autolib’, which was launched in Paris last December, has been ordered by a court to change its name due to a breach of trademark laws. The demand was made by a Paris court of appeal, which upheld a complaint from Europcar that the Autolib’ name was too similar to that of its AutoLiberté initiative. This dispute has been going on since 2008, before the car sharing programme was launched.
Autolib’ has launched hundreds of electric Bluecars across the French capital. Its name and nature is based on Velib’, the very successful bicycle sharing programme operating in the city. The car sharing scheme’s Bluecars reduce noise and offer zero emissions, and the service has been described as a green transport revolution that will ease traffic congestion on the capital’s streets and in neighbouring suburbs.
In a hearing in March, another court in Paris ruled in favour of Autolib’. Now, however, Town Hall chiefs have just one month to give the scheme a new name. However, they have vowed to appeal the ruling with claims that there’s no possibility to confuse Autolib’ and AutoLiberté.
The decision comes just as the programme was beginning to be successful, and the name change could have a costly impact on the business. All 1,800 cars, subscriber cards and docking stations will have to have the name of the company replaced on them. Plus, advertisements will have to be rewritten. Town Hall has invested €35 million into the scheme already, and authorities in the suburbs have invested €50,000 into each docking station.
Bolloré, an investment company behind the Bluecar, insists that the French capital and taxpayers should be the ones to pay for the name change. Autolib’ was decided on by the Town Hall, so they should contractually be responsible. The company also realises that carrying out the name change will be a lot of work to do.
However, a spokesman has played down how much the court’s decision will impact the programme. They aren’t going to take all of the Autolib’ signs down overnight. The name isn’t fundamental, he added, saying it’s the service that matters most. Additionally, Bolloré’s billionaire head, Vincent Bolloré, has recognised what a great success Autolib’ is, as it’s expected to break-even before the seven years they predicted.
After the court in Paris made the ruling that the name Autolib’ has to be changed, Eruopcar Group director general Roland Keppler said that they welcome the decision from the Court of Appeal of Paris. This shows the strength of trademark law in France. The brand Autolib’ will vanish from the streets of the capital, which will end its infringement on their AutoLiberté brand. They hope this can be done as to not inconvenience the network’s users, he added.
AutoLiberté was founded in 2000 and was deployed in France in 2001. The brand offers a service to citizens who want to save money but still have access to a vehicle. Since its launch throughout the country, it has experienced significant and continuous development – with more than 4,000 subscribers. Its services are available at 41 branches in Paris – and 14 of these are dedicated offices.
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