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A takeaway boss who was hit with a £12,000 bill after losing a trademark battle with Elon Musk’s Tesla has been left ‘hurting’ by the battle – after claiming he had named his shop after the 19th century inventor Nikola Tesla.
Amanj Ali, 41, registered the name Tesla Chicken and Pizza in May 2020 in homage to the Serbian engineer, whose Tesla coil invention in 1891 sought to revolutionise the transmission of high voltage electricity.
But when bosses at the US-domiciled electric car company Tesla Inc – which also takes its name from the electrical pioneer, and has Musk as its CEO – caught wind of the trademark registration they took him to court.
The battle raged over the fact that the car firm’s trademark registration in the UK covers ‘anticipatory’ food and drink services – should it ever decide to enter the restaurant business.
Even though Mr Ali registered his business before Tesla sought to protect its trademark in the UK – which it did by way of an application in November 2021 – the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) ruled in favour of the Model 3 makers.
Amanj Ali holds up the logo for the Tesla Chicken & Pizza trademark he had registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) – before lawyers for the car firm stepped in
His existing chicken shop, Colorado’s, in Bury, Greater Manchester. He had hoped to open a second shop providing chicken and pizza
Mr Ali (left) says he had been inspired from a young age by Nikola Tesla (right), who pioneered early forms of AC electricity transmission
Elon Musk (pictured) is Tesla’s CEO, having joined the company seven months after it was founded. A later lawsuit means he can legally name himself a co-founder
Tesla argued that this 2018 tweet from Elon Musk signposted the company’s intentions to operate food and drink businesses in the UK
Mr Ali, whose other shop in Bury, Greater Manchester is called Colorado’s, says he is disappointed to have been let with a £12,000 legal bill – and has vowed never to invite Tesla boss Mr Musk to eat at his premises.
He said: ‘I was so disappointed after all this. All I can say is it is just because a big company [took on] a small company – nothing else.
‘When I lost it, I was kind of hurting, but I just tried to keep a secret and not tell it to anybody.
‘It was 18 months that I had been fighting them. I couldn’t sometimes sleep properly, and at that time, it was kind of hard for me.’
He added about Musk: ‘If you asked me, “Will you be inviting him”, I would say “no”.’
The hard-working restaurateur said he had originally applied for his trademark as he hoped to open a new takeaway business in the Greater Manchester area.
He already had a chicken shop called Colorado’s, but felt his new branch would need a new name as it would have a different identity, selling pizza as well as chicken.
Mr Ali claims he struck upon ‘Tesla Chicken & Pizza’ as the famed inventor had left a mark on him when he was a youngster.
And he planned for his new restaurant to have a mural dedicated to the trailblazer, who pioneered modern alternating current supply systems in electricity.
As it happens, Nikola Tesla’s most famous inventor’s lab, the Tesla Experimental Station, was based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.
Mr Ali said: ‘In my young age, I read about him… I don’t know whether it is true or not, but some people claim he invented a lot of things.
‘For my Colorado’s brand, we do chicken only but with Tesla Chicken & Pizza, I wanted to do pizza as well.
‘And we were planning when we open the restaurant, we will have a wall that will have a Nikola Tesla picture.’
His trademark was successfully registered in ‘class 43’ for food and drink services, but his plans for a new restaurant later stalled due to the pandemic.
And in November 2021, he got emails from the IPO, saying another party had applied for the ‘Tesla’ trademark in the same section.
Stunned, Mr Ali said he had no idea that electric car manufacturer Tesla was behind the application until he researched them on the internet.
Mr Ali says he doesn’t have time to resent Tesla over its legal action – but says Elon Musk will not be welcome at his chicken shop anytime soon
The proposed sign for Tesla Chicken & Pizza (left) and Tesla Inc – can you spot the difference?
Nikola Tesla demonstrates a ‘magnifying transmitter’, a form of Tesla coil, at his Colorado Springs laboratory in the USA in 1899. The photo was taken as a clever multiple exposure – giving the impression Tesla was sitting amongst live arcs of electricity
Musk had tweeted that he might roll out 50s diner-style food service at Tesla Superchargers (pictured: a Supercharger station in Exeter)
He said: ‘When we Googled that address, it was the headquarters of Tesla Motors.
‘I’m a micro businessman being faced [with] one of the richest man’s companies, [so] I found a solicitor, and I called them.’
Working with his lawyer, he said representatives from Tesla offered him £750 to sell the rights to his trademark to them in May 2022.
But he was dismayed by this proposal and claims he then joked with his legal team that only ‘£750,000’ would be enough to let him give it up.
Mr Ali said his lawyer then relayed this to Tesla’s representatives as a matter of fact, and later they used this to successfully argue he had acted in ‘bad faith’.
He continued: ‘At that time, they kind of made me laugh and I was angry, I just quickly replied to my solicitor, ‘Tell them my client will accept your offer with a “k” next to it.’
‘But my solicitor replied: “He won’t accept the £750 but instead, he will accept £750,000.” Tesla’s solicitor used that against me.’
Court documents also revealed how Tesla’s lawyers argued that a tweet sent by Elon Musk in January 2018 made clear his ambitions to start up a restaurant franchise using the company’s name.
It read: ‘Gonna put an old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant at one of the new Tesla Supercharger locations in LA.’
They also suggested that Mr Ali was ‘familiar with the trademark system’ and was aware of Musk’s huge $206bn fortune due to his posts on social media.
But after the case, he said many people were aware of Musk’s wealth and questioned whether the tweet was a legitimate business proposal as it hadn’t yet materialised.
He fumed: ‘I said, “I haven’t opened my restaurant yet, but you haven’t either?”‘
As part of the IPO’s ruling in late November last year, he was forced to pay Tesla £4,000 while also shelling out £8,000 in fees for his solicitor.
But despite the crushing defeat, he doesn’t bear a grudge toward the world’s richest man.
Mr Ali added: ‘I’m the type of person that I don’t have any hate against anyone. I am too busy to hate people.’
Tesla was founded in July 2003 by engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, before Musk joined in February 2004 after he provided $7.5million in funding after selling his shares in payment company Paypal.
A lawsuit settled in 2009 between Eberhard, Tarpenning, Musk and two other early employees means all five can legally refer to themselves as co-founders of the firm.
Tesla has been contacted for comment.