Audi wins seven-year battle over 'Vorsprung durch Technik' trademark
Almost 30 years after advertising doyen Sir John Hegarty spotted the line "Vorsprung durch Technik" at an Audi factory and made it a globally recognised ad slogan, the car manufacturer has won a long legal battle to take full control of it as a trademark.
Hegarty spotted the slogan in 1982, the year he co-founded ad agency BBH, on a visit to Germany to establish how to sell Audi's cars to UK drivers.
Despite scepticism that using a German slogan that roughly translates as "advancement through technology" would work, Hegarty went with his gut feeling and the strapline is now one of the most famous and long-running in advertising.
After a seven-year legal battle Audi has won the right to extend the slogan's trademark protection to include clothes and games, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice yesterday. Vorsprung durch Technik joins the likes of Kit Kat's "Have a Break" strapline, which secured the same status as trademark back in 2003. Vorsprung durch Technik has been registered for use specifically with vehicles and vehicle parts since 2001.
"While in the past it was difficult to register such marks as they were typically seen as mere advertising puff, the courts are now recognising that such marks fulfil both an advertising and trademark function, distinctive and synonymous with a particular brand," said Fiona McBride, a trademark attorney at law firm Withers & Rogers.
Audi has been trying since 2003 to register the slogan as a trademark but had been rebuffed numerous times, initially on the grounds that it "lacked distinctive character". A series of appeals followed, finally ending at the European Court of Justice in 2008.
"This ruling indicates that the ECJ is willing to look favourably on slogan registrations in the future, and there should be no greater burden of proof on the brand owner to show their mark is distinctive than would apply when registering a typical word mark," said McBride.
Vorsprung durch Technik has managed to having cropped up in Only Fools in Horses in the 1980s, when Del Boy comforts a German girl about to give birth, and in songs by U2 and Blur. It also featured as a punchline in a joke in Guy Ritchie's film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
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