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Splitting the difference

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What happens when one trademark is owned by two different traders? This is almost a contradiction in terms, since the role of a trademark is to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of others. But it does sometimes happen.

A prime example of a famous trade mark being “split” between two separate traders is the ROLLS ROYCE brand. When the company split off into the vehicle manufacturing enterprise, and the aircraft engine enterprise, ownership became completely separate, though both companies continued to use the famous brand name.

The brand was born when Henry Royce set up an electrical and mechanical business in 1884. He built his first car in 1904. Soon after he teamed up with Charles Rolls, a car dealer. They came up with a plan where Royce made a range of cars to be sold exclusively through Rolls’ showroom. The cars were labelled ‘Rolls-Royce’ – and so, as they say in the classics, a legend was born.

But although the brand ROLLS ROYCE conjures for many people vision of a luxury car, since 1973 Rolls Royce plc has had nothing to do with automobiles. That company is a leading maker of aerospace engines. Ownership of the car brand has been complex, but in summary it has been owned since 1998 by Rolls Royce Motor Cars, a division of BMW.

Annette Freeman       27-Nov-2012


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