The joint Chinese-Israeli brand Qoros Auto prevailed in a lawsuit last week in Switzerland filed by Audi, which claimed the new car's name violates its right to use the letter Q on vehicles.
The Geneva court ruled on Feb 27 that Audi must pay 15,000 Swiss francs ($16,026) in costs to Qoros and rejected a temporary injunction requested by the German auto giant.
Audi contended the Qoros GQ3 infringes on its trademark right to the letter Q used on its SUVs.
The model made its debut on Tuesday at the Geneva International Motor Show.
However, Audi previously won a similar lawsuit in its homeland Germany. A Hamburg court ruling forced Qoros to change the name to the Qoros 3 Sedan.
"The letter Q is a protected part of our brand portfolio," according to an Audi executive quoted in the German newspaper Die Welt. "If another carmaker uses the letter Q for a nameplate, then this affects us of course."
But Qoros said in an announcement that "the GQ3 name has a clear definition, and will not lead to confusion with other car brands". The letter Q, it said, simply stands for Qoros.
The company added that GQ3 is just a temporary codename for the car, not the final name, which is still undecided.
The Audi challenge surprised Qoros because it seemed a U-turn from Audi's attitude a year before.
In February 2012, Qoros filed applications for a number of trademarks including the GQ3 with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market - the EU's trademark authority - which notified Audi during the review period.
At the time, Audi objected the RQ3 and RQ5 trademark applications, but "raised no objection, nor expressed any concern" about the GQ3 name, said Qoros spokesman Eric Geers.
Five months later, the GQ3 trademark was granted to Qoros.
Some European analysts said that the legal dispute is about more than just letters. Audi actually wants to "keep Qoros down", Die Welt newspaper noted.
"Is Audi scared of Chinese Qoros?" asked Sebastian Viehmann, editor of German news website Focus Online.
Qoros Auto is a 50-50 partnership formed in 2007 between Anhui-headquartered Chery Automobile Co and Israel Corp - the largest holding company in its namesake country - to produce a new brand of car for sale in China and overseas.
"Qoros 3 models - saloon, estate, hatchback and crossover - are aimed squarely at the heart of the European lower-medium sector," Mark Bursa, a motoring industry analyst and former Financial Times editor, told auto news portal Just-auto.com. "Obvious competitors would be the Skoda Octavia or Audi A3 Sportback."
Some Chinese industry insiders said that the lawsuit could have backfired, generating "free advertising" in the European market for Qoros through the amount of attention it created.
Qoros also defended its brand name in the Hamburg court last year against Korean automaker Kia, which launched its new Quoris model in July.
The court found that both Qoros and Quoris models in the same car market would cause consumer confusion and issued a preliminary injunction against Kia.
(China Daily 03/06/2013 page17)