Peter Anderson | Jun 29, 2012

The new owner of Swedish carmaker Saab has asked for permission to use the Saab brand name on its proposed range of electric vehicles.

The new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), is a joint venture between Hong Kong's National Modern Energy Holdings and Japanese investment group Sun Investment.

As a carmaker, Saab was not the only brand with ties to its name and iconic griffin logo. Because of this, NEVS must seek permission from defence group Saab AB, and truckmaker Scania, to use the trademarked name and image.

The agreement over the name and logo was to safeguard its use from companies the two former shareholders might deem inappropriate.

"Every use of the trademark has to be discussed. NEVS can't get hold of the Saab name until we've approved it," Scania spokesman Hans-Ake Danielsson told Automotive News Europe.

NEVS is planning to engineer and manufacture its electric 9-3 in Sweden, and then ship them to China for sale. Work is believed to have begun on a next-generation 9-3 to be built on the Phoenix platform.

It goes without saying that being able to use the Saab name would sav NEVS from the costly exercise of building a new brand from scratch.

Adding further to the complicated acquisition, NEVS does not control the international Saab spare parts business, which is owned by the Swedish government.

Wrangling over names is not unusual in the automotive world. One of the more famous disputes was over Rolls-Royce.

The 'Rolls-Royce' brand name and logo is owned by the aerospace company of the same name, which once also owned Rolls-Royce Motors. The two were split in 1973, with ownership of the name staying with the aerospace arm.

Volkswagen bought Rolls Royce, Bentley and the Crewe factory in 1998, despite the engine supply agreement with BMW.

BMW cleverly used this agreement, bought the license to the Rolls-Royce brand from the aerospace company, and pushed Volkswagen into a corner - eventually nabbing the rights to make Rolls-Royce-badged cars.

As for this latest battle, we'll keep an eye on the developments.

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