Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti is seeking a U.S. trademark for “Eau Rouge,” the name of a storied Formula One racetrack bend in Belgium, for a potential luxury car that may cost more than $100,000.
The application, filed by a Nissan lawyer on Jan. 8, is still being considered, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website. Drivers including Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg will navigate the course at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.
Eau Rouge is an uphill bend at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit with a reputation for being among the most beautiful and dangerous in racing, according to “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans,” a 2010 book by A.J. Baime. The Eau Rouge, or red water, takes its name from a stream that crosses the course through the Ardennes forest.
The circuit, built in the 1920s and owned by the regional Wallonian government, has a case for receiving compensation from any sales of the car, according to Edward Chalfie, a trademark lawyer at Dennemeyer, an intellectual property consultancy.
“It would be difficult for Nissan to argue that the car is named after the stream,” Chalfie said by telephone from Chicago. General Motors Co. paid the Sports Car Club of America $5 for each Pontiac Firebird Trans Am it sold between 1969 and 2002, Chalfie added. The words “Trans Am” are from a racing series that the club founded.
Infiniti’s Q50 Eau Rouge is a prototype and the carmaker is still testing components and hasn’t made a final decision on whether to produce the so-called super sedan, or on its name, Stefan Weinmann, an Infiniti spokesman in Hong Kong, said by phone. The brand’s biggest market is the U.S., he added. He said he wasn’t aware of any objections by the circuit.
The racetrack has been owned by the regional government for about a decade, circuit spokesman Luc Willens said. In 2005, the Wallonian government paid 15 million euros ($20 million) to keep the annual Formula One race at Spa-Francorchamps after the event promoter went bankrupt.
The U.S. trademark office will likely approve Nissan’s application, leaving the circuit 30 days to file a complaint if it wants, Chalfie said.
Marc Genicot, the circuit’s administrative and legal director, declined to comment in an e-mail on whether it objected to the application. The racetrack successfully registered the name “L’Eau Rouge” for cars on April 24 at the European Union’s trademark office in Alicante, Spain, according to the office’s website.
In Europe, sports entities have licensed names to automakers before, according to Olivier Lombardo, a trademark lawyer in Luxembourg at Dennemeyer. The organizer of the Roland Garros tennis tournament agreed to a special-edition Peugeot car with its name since 1989, he said by telephone.