Chinese Electric Car Company Wants To Trademark "Snowden" Name For Top-Secret Technology

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Snowden NSA 1July2013
Television screens the image of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden during a news bulletin at a cafe at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport June 26, 2013.

Edward Snowden's name has been plastered across all kinds of media lately and has been the center of discussion for several weeks now. Now, a Beijing-based electric car company is hoping to capitalize off the media buzz surrounding the former U.S. intelligence contractor-turned-political-asylee by applying for a trademark on the name "Snowden."

Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post spoke to a representative from Hong Yuan Lan Xiang, known as HYLX for short, a small Chinese electric car technology company that has submitted a request to register ‘Snowden’ as a trademark in both Chinese and English last week. Zhu Hefeng, the company’s manager and the trademark applicant, said that he thought that ‘Snowden’ would be the perfect name for the company’s new top secret technology that is currently in development and will, says the company, change the market for environmentally-friendly cars.

Details of the new ‘Snowden’ technology are still under wraps. “We are talking with China’s domestic carmakers, and we aim to launch cars equipped with our technology by the end of this year,” Zhu said during a telephone interview with the newspaper last Friday. Some of the improvements that will go along with the yet to be revealed “top secret technologies and products” HYLX said the Snowden will include ranges from new removable batteries, the remodeling of existing traditional car models into electric-capable models, and increased charging speeds, Zhu revealed.

The patent request is still waiting for approval by the Chinese government, and some believe it may even be rejected. Wang Hao, a trademark expert at the Beijing-based Baishifuda Times Intellectual Property firm estimated that approval on the trademark application could take anywhere from a year to 15 months. On top of that, Wang said that China’s involvement in the Snowden-NSA/PRISM/asylum case -- with Snowden camped out in Hong Kong for several days -- could classify the Snowden name as a “sensitive” topic and thus lead to rejection.

However, Chinese laws allow firms to register the same trademark under different sectors. While HYLX will be the first technology firm filing for the name, Wang says he found that a Chinese clothing manufacturer registered the Chinese words for Snowden back in 2010, before Edward Snowden was a media sensation. Wang also said that the English trademark for “Snowden” has also been used in several other categories in China. 

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