A UK chicken shop owner has lost a legal dispute with Elon Musk's Tesla. Pexels

A chicken shop owner in Manchester, who locked horns with Elon Musk's Tesla, has lost. The trademark dispute left him £12,000 poorer.

Amanj Ali, a small business owner in Bury, Greater Manchester, challenged Tesla by naming his chicken shop "Tesla Chicken & Pizza' and ended up sparking a trademark showdown.

In November of last year, the 41-year-old business owner was ordered to pay £4,000 to Tesla as the UK's Intellectual Property Office ultimately favoured the automotive giant.

According to the BBC, Ali had registered the trademark for the takeaway store in May 2022, citing the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla as his inspiration for the name.

When questioned about the unconventional inspiration, he explained to the outlet: "He was a kind of intelligent guy... in my young age, I was... reading about him, looking at his pictures."

A chicken shop owner goes toe-to-toe with Tesla

It is worth noting that Tesla did not initially object to the trademark. However, documents released by the IPO suggest Ali was informed in November 2021 that the Elon Musk-led electric vehicle (EV) maker is seeking international protection for trademarks in the UK food and drink category.

Referring to the email he received from the IPO, Ali said: "[It] was telling me somebody has tried to register 'Tesla' for the same class as you... It was from the USA, I was thinking who is this?"

Anticipating Tesla's attempt to invalidate his trademark for his takeaway business, Ali decided to oppose the company's initial trademark request. Much to his chagrin, his fears materialised a year later when Tesla challenged his trademark, claiming it would unfairly leverage their established reputation.

The year-long legal battle concluded with an unfavourable outcome for Ali, who was already struggling with the stress of the dispute. He told the BBC that he did not appeal the decision because he had already spent around £8,000 in legal fees.

"Imagine, I'm just a small businessman running one chicken shop, and there is a big company coming which is owned by the richest man in the world," he told the outlet. "To be honest, I couldn't sleep well... sometimes I couldn't work," he added.

Tesla's sole claim to prior use in the food and drinks industry rested on Elon Musk's January 2018 tweet about opening a restaurant. However, IPO hearing officer Mr A James said this evidence was "hopeless," further noting that there was no basis in law for such "anticipatory goodwill".

The court documents suggest Ali offered to sell his trademark for £750,000. Ali claims this was due to an error made by his previous solicitor after the EV giant offered £750 for it. He reportedly told his solicitor he would consider an offer "if there was a K next to it".

"I never thought, 'One day I'm going to sell my trademark to Tesla'. If I was meaning to sell it to them, I would have bought just the word Tesla," he said.

Big companies are battling over trademarks

Big companies have been sparing no effort in a bid to protect their trademarks lately. Ironically, Musk's ex-girlfriend Grimes trademarked Grok before the billionaire announced the Grok AI, an AI-powered bot from his AI startup, xAI. Notably, xAI launched its first-ever chatbot named "Grok" in November 2023.

Grimes, on the other hand, partnered with toy company Curio to launch an AI-powered plush rocket named "Grok" in December 2023. She claims the name is a contraction of "Grocket," inspired by her children's exposure to rockets due to Musk's SpaceX work.

Similarly, UK garden business L V Bespoke recently won a trademark battle against luxury giant Louis Vuitton, despite the fashion house's claims of confusion and brand dilution.

Also, a small UK software firm successfully challenged Meta's "Threads" trademark, forcing the app to change its name in the UK. Rubbing salt in the wound, UK marketing firm JDR Group urged SMEs to use the social media platform with caution.