Elon Musk, Tesla Inc.’s CEO, is one of the most creative business thinkers of our time. The inspiration for his Tesla car and company was Nikola Tesla, an electrical engineer in the early 1900s who was considered a true genius. Unfortunately, he died in 1943 almost penniless. In reverence to Tesla’s creative ingenuity, Musk revived his name and engineering spirit through the electric car business and their modern-looking Tesla logo.
In recent Tesla news, Musk announced the company is looking to expand the Tesla name and brand into the restaurant and foodservice industry. On May 27, 2021, Tesla filed an application for a trademark logo with the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) to protect the Tesla brand in “restaurant services, pop-up restaurant services, self-service restaurant services [and] take-out restaurant services.”
The Tesla logo trademark application is the most recent step toward combining electric cars and food service, but the company has been playing with the idea since at least 2018. For three years, Elon Musk has been teasing his followers on Twitter about adding “an old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant at one of the new Tesla Supercharger locations in LA near the 405.” He also disclosed in later tweets that the plan would include an outdoor movie screen that will feature a selection of favorite movie scenes and touchscreen menus near the charging stations and inside each vehicle (in the center console area) that display various food and drink options.
In 2018, Tesla filed a restaurant building permit application in the city of Santa Monica, but various issues delayed the building process and the project hasn’t made much progress. Recently, Tesla electric car owners expressed frustration on social media about the long lines for charging stations and having to wait 30 minutes to charge their vehicles with nothing to do. In response to these complaints, Musk devised a way to give his customers a unique experience that also expands the Tesla brand.
Fans of Tesla and Elon Musk are fiercely loyal. When surveyed, 98% of Tesla owners said they would buy another Tesla in the future and Tesla consistently ranks at the top of Consumer Reports’ customer satisfaction survey. In 2020, stores that offered the newly released Tesla Tequila sold out almost immediately. Similarly, loyal followers are expected to support a Tesla-branded restaurant enterprise. Having a trademark registration for a Tesla restaurant will be important for several reasons.
Tesla consumers will automatically assume that any product or service carrying the Tesla logo and brand will be high-quality and cutting edge, especially in the technology arena. They will be drawn to Musk’s new ideas and want to be the first to experience his latest creations. Also, if Tesla decides to partner with a restaurant chain, that company’s value could increase once the Tesla logo and brand are associated with its food products.
From a defensive perspective, Tesla must protect its brand from being used, purposefully or inadvertently, by a restaurant business that doesn’t meet the Tesla standards. Without trademark registration in place, the Tesla logo or name, or slight variations, could be used freely in the food industry leaving Tesla with no recourse.
The trademark application filed in May requests the protection of Tesla’s famous “T” trademark logo, the word “Tesla,” and a futuristic version of the Tesla name (as seen below) in connection with four foodservice industry categories: restaurants, pop-up restaurants, take-out restaurants, and self-service restaurants.
Years ago, a Tesla spokesman suggested the company would probably partner with an established restaurant business, but since the recent trademark application requests trademark protection for a Tesla-branded restaurant, plans may have changed.
Tesla’s trademark application is currently awaiting review by an attorney at the USPTO to determine if the marks meet the legal registration criteria. Initial applications are typically reviewed approximately three months after submission, so we may hear more Tesla news after August 27, 2021. This is only a first step in expanding Tesla’s impact on the American dining economy. Beyond our country, Tesla could also pursue international trademark protection if the restaurant idea succeeds here.
In general, successful trademark registration involves several complicated legal requirements and specific criteria. The application itself requests certain information including proof of the trademark’s use in commerce. Once an application is filed, it cannot be revised. Thus, it is important to get it right the first time.
Federal trademark laws are complicated and specific. Don’t trust the future of your business to a lawyer that occasionally handles trademark and patent cases. The attorneys at the Trademark Lawyer Law Firm dedicate their work to helping companies protect their brand, logo, reputation, and future prosperity. Our team can review and assess your proposed trademark and let you know your chances of receiving a successful trademark registration.
Your company doesn’t have to be as large as Tesla to benefit from a registered trademark. Our Ann Arbor, Michigan legal team provides comprehensive trademark registration services for startups, entrepreneurs, and business owners in various industries throughout the country. We have successfully registered more than 5,500 trademarks with the USPTO, and we are dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive superior legal services at reasonable rates. Contact us today to schedule a free 15-minute consultation with a trademark registration attorney.
Suspensions are when your application is on hold. There are various reasons a trademark application can be suspended. However “likelihood of confusion” with prior application(s) filed and submission of foreign application are the most common reasons the USPTO may suspend an application. During a trademark suspension period, your lawyer will provide guidance on the next steps and whether it might be best to file an argument or pursue a coexistence agreement.
A disclaimer usually refers to a statement which indicates that you are not claiming exclusive rights to use the word(s) or a design element in your trademark application. A disclaimer allows for registration without creating a false impression of the registrant’s rights.
A good example of this is disclaiming “café” if your services are for a café.
If a trademark is not eligible for the Principal Registry, there is sometimes an option to register on the Supplemental Registry.
In cases where the USPTO finds the trademark application is merely ornamental, merely descriptive, or primarily geographically descriptive, the USPTO may allow the application to be registered on the Supplemental Registry. However, over time, the mark may acquire distinctiveness and possibly become eligible for the Principal Registry.
Two dates must be specified in a trademark application:
Date of First Use Anywhere: The “anywhere” refers to use in the U.S. or elsewhere. This is the date the goods were first sold or transported, or the services were first rendered under the mark. The use must also have been bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade.
Date of First Use in Commerce: This is the date when the goods were first sold or transported, or the services were first rendered under the mark in interstate or international commerce. The use of the mark must have been bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade.
The renewal timeframe for a trademark is between the 9th and 10th year anniversary of the trademark registration, and then in ten-year intervals. It is important to be aware that the USPTO also requires a registrant to provide an affidavit at the 5th and 6th years of ownership stating that the trademark is still being used in commerce. Failure to comply with the renewal timeframes or the affidavit requirements will result in the cancellation of the trademark registration.