There have been some important and widely reported regulatory and market changes in recent months and years in the field of Electric Vehicles (EVs). This has driven changes in how brand owners in the automotive space provide goods and, increasingly, services and has drawn new entrants to activity in the automotive sector. This affects how companies need to approach brand protection and businesses that can adapt their trade mark protection strategy to ensure this fits with their commercial plans in this space quickest will have a key advantage over competitors.
To tackle climate change governments around the world have, in recent years, worked to impose legislation and commitments to decarbonisation and net zero emissions through international agreements and initiatives such as COP 26 in 2021 and the upcoming COP 27 conference in Egypt. Concerns over energy security have also increased following the conflict in Ukraine.
In the UK, the government has already made a commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030 and hybrids in 2035. There is also a recently imposed requirement as of 30 June 2022 in Part S of the new UK Building Regulations for all new build residential properties now to be equipped with EV charging points. New EV charge points will have to have “smart” capabilities to monitor, manage and delay the flow of electricity to ease pressure on the grid.
These changes have forced operators in the automotive field to focus activity on the EV sector and this, in conjunction with changes in technology and consumer behaviour, has directly affected how goods and services are provided and the technological solutions required to implement them.
For example, there is an ongoing requirement to monitor, improve and report on charging performance of EVs for customers. It is also the case that there has been an increased trend of automotive manufacturers now offering “transport as a service” solutions in the form of subscription models for products. An example of this is Volvo’s decision earlier this year only to offer sales of EVs exclusively through online purchase/subscriptions rather than through dealerships in the UK (mirrored and anticipated in other territories).
These changes have two important implications. Firstly, brand owners in the automotive space are increasingly providing new add-on products and services including software and digital solutions for offering subscriptions and tracking performance, wear and tear and charging performance of vehicles.
Secondly, the expansion of product and service offerings required to operate in the EV space means there are new entrants to the automotive field such as providers of software, hardware and tech as well as power supply and energy solutions.
As such, traditional automotive brands are moving into new areas of technology and new entrants to this space in the areas of tech and infrastructure are having to design and develop new products and services for the automotive space. Because of this and since trade mark protection is defined by reference to the goods and services being provided, brand owners need to expand protection accordingly to ensure coverage matches their current and future commercial interests.
As such and in conjunction with devising their business strategy including review and expansion of product and service offerings, brand owners should adapt and review their trade mark protection accordingly.
It is also the case that the more overlap there is between different brands which have previously operated in different areas, the greater the risk of conflict in their use and protection of similar trade marks. As such, there is a “first mover advantage” in the area of trade mark protection and the brands which can resolve these issues and review their protection earliest may well be best placed to meet these challenges.