BMW for many years has affixed the letter M to its highest-performance cars, and they probably didn’t pay much attention when Nissan’s Infiniti division begat M35 and M45 sedans: the Bimmers, after all, had labels like M5 and M6, and anyway Infiniti had had an M30 way back when, which no one would have confused with anything Bavarian. It was probably not a good idea, though, for Infiniti to refer to the M35/M45 collectively as the “M.” And then Infiniti came up with the idea of an M6 sport package for the Canadian-market G35, and BMW drew a line in the legal sand.
A Canadian court has now ruled that BMW owns the M mark. The ruling:
[The defendant is] liable, in damages to be determined … for the use of the letter M and the descriptor M6, as trademarks for automobiles, parts and accessories, which caused a likelihood of confusion between the sources of its wares and of BMW’s.
The defendant is also ordered to deliver to the plaintiffs or to destroy under oath, all literature, invoices, packaging, signs, advertisements, promotional or marketing material, printed or otherwise recorded, in the possession, custody or control of the defendant which may be considered to offend the injunction now granted.
It’s unclear whether BMW USA would prevail in a similar suit; here, as in Canada, Infiniti has been using “M” in both print and television ads for the M35/M45, but the US-issue G is offered with two sport packages, called “Sport” and “Sport 6MT,” neither of which seems particularly Bimmeresque.
Disclosure: I drive an Infiniti I30, which is not to be confused with the European Hyundai i30.