Just as it was beginning to pick up pace, the French capital’s much vaunted car-sharing scheme, known as Autolib’, has hit a bump in the road after a Paris court ruled that its name must be changed because it breaches trademark laws.
Judges in Paris have thrown a spanner in the works of the city’s much heralded electric car-sharing scheme Autolib’ by ordering it to change its name.
The demand was made by a court of appeal in Paris, which upheld a complaint by car-rental company Europcar that the name Autolib’ was too similar to that of its own initiative Autoliberté.
Paris Town Hall chiefs, having launched Autolib’ amid much hype seven months ago, now have just one month to come up with a new name.
But they have vowed to appeal the “surprising judgement”, claiming “there is no possibility of confusion between Autolib’ and Autoliberté.”
Friday’s ruling comes after another Paris court had previously decided in favour of Autolib in a hearing on March 11.
The Autolib’ scheme, which has launched hundreds of electric Bluecars in and around the capital, is based both in name and nature on the city’s highly successful bicycle-sharing scheme, Velib’.
With its environmentally-friendly Bluecars offering zero-emissions and reduced noise, it has been billed as a green transport revolution that will relieve traffic congestion on the streets of the capital and its neighbouring suburbs.
Paris to foot the bill
The court’s decision, coming just as Autolib’ was starting to enjoy success, could have a costly impact for the car-sharing scheme.
The name will have to be changed on all 1,800 cars, docking stations and subscriber cards, while all advertising will also have to be rewritten.
Bolloré, the company behind the electric Bluecars, has insisted Paris and taxpayers should foot the bill.
“The name Autolib’ was decided on by the Town Hall so it is Paris that is contractually responsible,” said Bolloré.
The Bluecar is basic, but sturdy, fast and solidly designed by the makers of Ferrari.
An Autolib station terminal where members of the public can access a car.
The makers of the Bluecar are also exporting their battery technology for other public transport projects.
The Bluecar takes four hours to recharge, and a full battery allows up to 250 km of driving.
At Bolloré's headquarters, one Bluecar is being topped up through solar panels, although don't expect to see to many solar stations in Paris.
A Bluecar plugged in and charging up.
The car drives very much like an automatic petrol car - except that it is eerily quiet. Each car comes with built-in GPS.
The top panel shows the speed and also the state of the battery (which actually fills up when you brake hard).
The prices for membership of the scheme.
“The name change would obviously be a lot of work to carry out,” the company admitted. The Town Hall has aleady invested 35 million euros in the scheme, with suburban authorities also stumping up 50,000 euros for each docking station.
But a spokesman for Bolloré played down the impact of the court’s decision.
“We are not going to take off all the Autolib’ stickers overnight,” said the spokesman. “The name is not fundamental; it is the service that counts.”
On the bright side, the group, headed by billionaire investor Vincent Bolloré, insisted that the Autolib’ was a “great success” and was due to break-even before the seven-year timeline it gave itself.