Wings on Cars

In 1937, Bentley Motors Limited registered this trademark for automobiles.

Bentley logo.png

In 2017, Hyundai Motor Company registered this trademark for automobiles.

Genesis logo.png

It isn’t too far-fetched to think that Hyundai’s trademark is infringing on Bentley’s trademark: They’re both for cars and have stylized wings as the dominant feature.

So why is this OK?

It all comes down to the du Pont factors.

Regular readers may recall a case involving E. I. du Pont Nemours & Co. The court in that case set out factors that trademark attorneys use to decide whether two trademarks are confusingly similar. Here are some of them:

  • The similarity of the marks as to appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression.
  • The relatedness of the goods or services.
  • The number and nature of similar marks in use on similar goods.
  • The conditions under which and buyers to whom sales are made, i.e., “impulse” vs. careful, sophisticated purchasing.

Bentley and Hyundai can each use its stylized-wing trademark because of the last bullet.[1]  A car buyer is unlikely to accidentally buy a Genesis®  instead of a Bentley® because of the similarity of these two trademarks. Car buyers are engaged in “careful, sophisticated purchasing” and unlikely to casually mistake one for the other.

Imagine, though, this type of similarity on bags of potato chips. Someone is likely to grab a bag of chips while simultaneously talking on the phone and popping a Binky® brand pacifier back in his baby’s mouth. In other words, an “impulse” purchase.

Now you know why these trademarks can co-exist.


Cody B. gets the shout out for asking the question that sparked this post.




[1] I think the final bullet (care of the purchaser) is the most important du Pont factor in this instance, but the third bullet (number and nature of similar marks in use on similar goods) is also important. There are lots of car companies using similar wing designs.

Wings on cars.png

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