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Yema Auto wins trademark case over Ford Mustang's Chinese name translation


The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt is pictured during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.

Ford Motor Co's Mustang is known to many in China as yema, which means wild horse, but now the United States car manufacturer's dealers in the country will have to learn to pronounce its English name after Ford lost a lawsuit to a little-known carmaker called Yema Auto.

In a statement released on its website last week, Ford Motor China said a regional court "has ruled that we infringed the trademark rights of Yema Auto and we are putting up this statement to eliminate adverse effects on it".

A Ford spokesperson said that the company has never officially referred to Mustang as yema, but some dealers have used it for better promotional effects, because it is easier to remember for non-English-speaking customers in China.

The spokesperson said that the Mustang will be called Mustang in China as well, and so far the company does not have any plan to register a Chinese name for the model.

Yema Auto, which said it has shaken hands with Ford over the issue, registered yema in 1986, some 20 years before Ford filed for the registration for the same name for its Mustang muscle car.

In 2016, Yema filed a lawsuit to the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court, demanding that Ford stop infringing its trademark and claimed a compensation of 10 million yuan ($1.49 million) for economic losses.

Earlier this year, the court ruled that Yema has the exclusive right to use the registered trademark yema, and that Ford China should pay 1 million yuan in compensation, as well as issue a statement on its official website to eliminate the adverse influence it has produced on Yema Auto.

According to the Beijing Business Today newspaper, China adopts a registration-based protection system, which means that the time of a trademark registration is crucial in order to win such a case, even though Ford's Mustang is much more well-known and more expensive than Yema Auto's models.

Statistics from market research company, IHS Markit, show that Ford sold 7,125 Mustangs in China last year, making it the best-selling sports coupe in the country. Globally, 125,809 Mustangs were sold in 2017.

International carmakers usually name their models in the Chinese language as they sell them in the country, even though the models already have English names overseas, before their introduction or localization. Analysts said those companies should be more cautious in this regard and arrange their trademark portfolios even more carefully to seize the market initiative while preventing similar troubles to that which have confronted Ford.

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