A toy car helped Nissan reclaim the Skyline trademark from Ford

Two years ago Ford filed a trademark application for the name “Skyline” with the US patent office and was granted those rights. As one of Nissan’s most valuable properties, the makers of the GT-R weren’t about to let Skyline get away. This month Nissan finally got the Skyline naming rights back, and it was done with the help of a diecast car.

Even you didn’t file for a trademark first, you can claim the rights to a name if you can prove that used it before the party filing for the trademark. In July 2021 Ford filed for the Skyline naming rights in the category of “motor vehicles, namely, SUVs, trucks, and automobiles,” and was granted them shortly after. The following month, August 2021, Nissan fired back with its own Skyline trademark filing, but in the category of “model cars; minicars, namely, toy cars.”

Nissan even attached this photo of an R34 model car in the trademark filing. Funnily enough, it’s not even the most replicated spec (that would be the GT-R), but a humble 25GT-X Turbo sedan. It appears to be a Japanese market model that was just hastily photographed on the desk of a Nissan employee. It makes sense for Nissan to protect the Skyline name in minicars, since Nissan sells a ton of Skyline toy cars in the US.

Carbuzz, which discovered the patents, believes that Nissan intended to protect the name in other categories until it could get it back in the motor vehicle category as well. Nissan’s model car trademark application was approved in August 2022. Carbuzz theorizes that Ford may have decided that with Nissan’s claims to Skyline it couldn’t really use the name in any meaningful way. In any case, Ford abandoned the Skyline trademark on September 22, 2022.

Nissan followed up by filing trademark applications in every category it could. In October 2o22 Nissan even registered a Skyline trademark for use in NFTs. They also registered another patent covering several other automotive categories, including:

  • Parts for motor vehicles, namely, trunk emblems, emblems, illuminated kickplates, valve cover trims, valve cover emblems.
  • Parts for motor vehicles, namely, engine gasket kits, water pumps, oil pan assemblies, cover oil pump assemblies; oil pumps.
  • Magnets.
  • Parts for motor vehicles, namely, headlight switch assemblies.
  • Parts for motor vehicles, namely, air spoiler spacesr [sic]; air box ducts; gasket adapters; body side trims; torque split accumulators; clutch master cylinders; clutch kits; A/C vents; door moldings; windshield molding sets; door seal weatherstrips; window weatherstrips; brake master cylinders; rear quarter glass; window visor sets; leather shift boots; outer felt window moldings; coil packs; crank angle sensors; front outer cv boot kits.

The filing was accompanied by an RB26DETT valve cover to prove its use. Strangely, Nissan said their first use in some of these categories was December 31, 2014. We’re not experts in patent law but it seems you would want to go back as far as possible. The Skyline name first appeared in 1957 under Prince. If that complicates things, Nissan could claim first use as early as 1966. In any case, the US patent office granted Nissan the trademarks in these categories on March 1, 2023

Nissan was finally able to file for the Skyline trademark in February 2023 securing the name the category of “Motor vehicles, namely, automobiles and parts therefor; electric automobiles; trucks; vans; sport utility vehicles; sports cars; racing cars; concept motor vehicles, concept automobiles, historical and vintage automobiles.”

The description is far more thorough than Ford’s. In particular, the addition of racing cars and historical automobiles is heartening. We’ll probably never know what Ford intended to do with the Skyline name, and what decisions led to the filings from either camp, unfortunately. It may have taken two years, but it’s good to see the Skyline name back where it belongs. And don’t let anyone tell you toy cars are pointless.

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10 Responses to A toy car helped Nissan reclaim the Skyline trademark from Ford

  1. Ian N says:

    Amazing that Ford’s “creative” minds must be so bereft of ideas that they have to try to assimilate those of other more successful companies! Sheer laziness.

  2. speedie says:

    Ford used the “Skyliner” name for its 1957-1959 Fairlane retractable hardtop. I suspect Ford saw an opportunity to grab the name and went for it.

  3. Craig LaMothe says:

    Ford is also using Godzilla as a name for one of the engines.

  4. Joaquin Ruhi says:

    According to Wikipedia, Ford used the Skyliner name on at least 4 models between the 1954 and 1959 model years, thus predating even Prince in Japan. But that was it for Ford, whereas Prince and Nissan have used Skyline near-continuously since 1957.

  5. Ben Hsu says:

    I thought about the Skyliner aspect, but if Ford wanted to reference the Skyliner, why not just trademark the word Skyliner?

  6. j_c says:

    I bet Nissan regrets calling the R35 just “GT-R”.

  7. Land Ark says:

    For anyone who is curious and doesn’t know, the model in the photo is a 1:24 scale Hachette Domestic Famous Car Collection version of the Skyline – volume 127.
    Definitely an odd choice considering there are 6 other Skyline versions to choose from. It’s almost like that was the closest one in arm’s reach in someone’s office or house.

    From what I’ve been able to tell, it is a subscription model that may come monthly. I’ve picked up a few and quite like them.
    Here’s a photo of my collection:

    Not pictured is the Figaro I gave my wife and the Legacy GT wagon still in the box.

    • Ben Hsu says:

      Those look great and I’d love to start a collection of them, but I fear that I’ve missed the boat on a lot of good cars by now.

      • Land Ark says:

        I buy them from Japanese secondhand sellers and, if you’re used to AutoArt or Ignition Model prices, you’d be surprised how reasonable these are for what you get.
        The price on the package says it was 3,705 yen new and I generally pay anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 yen depending on the model. They tend not to hang around long when they pop up, but as you can see, it’s not impossible to get them. Of course there are some I’ve never seen for sale secondhand.
        I wouldn’t recommend buying them from ebay as sellers seem to think they are made of platinum.

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