Originally created 12/02/05

Chinese automaker Chery facing new dispute



SHANGHAI, China - Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co., having recently settled a piracy dispute with General Motors Corp., is facing another trademark battle - this time from a Chinese instant messaging company, reports said Thursday.

Tencent Holdings Ltd. alleges the automaker's Chery QQ minicar infringes on its popular QQ instant messaging service, the China Daily and other state-run newspapers reported.

Staff who answered the telephone at Chery's general manager's office said they had no comment.

Yuki Yu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Tencent, did not immediately respond to inquiries about the dispute.

The two companies were holding "urgent negotiations," the China Daily quoted Song Yang, a Tencent spokesman, as saying.

The report cited a Chery executive as saying there had been no trademark infringement but that the two companies were in talks.

Tencent QQ, China's first instant messenger service, was launched and registered by Tencent in 1999. It claims more than 400 million users.

Chery registered its QQ model minicar, one of China's best-selling vehicles, in 2003.

News of the dispute came just a week after GM announced it had reached a settlement resolving legal disputes with Chery.

GM had accused Chery of copying the design of its Spark minicar, which looks similar to the Chery QQ, and had filed lawsuits trying to prevent Chery from selling the car in various markets, including Asia and Eastern Europe.

GM also had threatened legal action over Chery's name, which it said sounds too much like "Chevy," the nickname of its Chevrolet brand.

In September, the Chinese company agreed not to market its vehicles under the Chery name in the United States. Malcolm Bricklin, founder of Visionary Vehicles, said the settlement would allow him to move ahead with plans to sell the cars there.