The maker of London’s iconic black cabs sued companies building an environmentally friendly alternative, saying the similar design would confuse drivers and customers.
The London Taxi Company, a unit of Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd., said Frazer-Nash Research Ltd. and Ecotive Ltd.’s zero-emission Metrocab breached its trademarks.
“It is actually all about the shape,” said Douglas Campbell, a lawyer for the cab-maker, at a London court hearing ahead of a November trial.
London Mayor Boris Johnson announced last year that all of the city’s new taxis should be zero-emission by 2018 as part of efforts to reduce pollution. Geely is investing 250 million pounds ($387 million) in a new facility in Coventry to build greener versions of the black cab.
Frazer-Nash Research and Ecotive said last month they would start production on the new Metrocab in 2016, in partnership with privately held manufacturer Multimatic Holdings Inc. The venture’s 50 million-pound factory will also be based near Coventry.
“The identity of the manufacturer of the car is a matter of supreme indifference to the passenger,” Frazer-Nash said in documents at the London court hearing, where the London Taxi Company asked the judge to approve a market survey for use in the trial.
Officials at the London Taxi Company declined to comment. A spokesman for Frazer-Nash didn’t immediately respond to e-mails and phone calls seeking comment.
Drivers of black cabs must pass a four-year training program called the “knowledge” to demonstrate their understanding of the city’s 25,000 streets.
Each cab driver essentially runs a small business, buying or renting vehicles, licensed by London’s transport authority. The London Taxi Company manufactures the majority of black cabs. Frazer-Nash’s zero-emission Metrocab is currently undergoing trials in the city.
The case is The London Taxi Corporation Ltd. v. Frazer Nash Research Ltd. & Anr, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, HC14B01502