A takeaway boss who was handed a £12,000 bill after losing a branding battle with Elon Musk’s Tesla was left “hurt” by the battle, after claiming he had named his store after 19th century inventor Nikola Tesla.
Amanj Ali, 41, registered the name Tesla Chicken and Pizza in May 2020 in tribute to the Serbian engineer, whose invention of the Tesla coil in 1891 was intended to revolutionize the transmission of high-voltage electricity.
But when bosses at US-based electric car company Tesla Inc – which also takes its name from the electric pioneer and has Musk as chief executive – found out about the trademark registration, they took it to court.
The battle was sparked by the fact that the car company’s trademark registration in the United Kingdom covers “advance” food and drink services, should it ever decide to enter the restaurant business.
Although Ali registered his company before Tesla attempted to protect its trademark in the United Kingdom, which it did by filing in November 2021, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) ruled in favor of the Model 3 makers.
Amanj Ali holds the Tesla Chicken & Pizza brand logo that he had registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), before the car company’s lawyers intervened.
Their existing chicken shop, Colorado’s, in Bury, Greater Manchester. He hoped to open a second store offering chicken and pizza.
Ali (left) says that from a young age he was inspired by Nikola Tesla (right), who pioneered the first forms of AC electricity transmission.
Elon Musk (pictured) is the CEO of Tesla and joined the company seven months after it was founded. Subsequent lawsuit means he can legally name himself co-founder
Tesla argued that this 2018 tweet from Elon Musk indicated the company’s intentions to operate food and beverage businesses in the United Kingdom.
Ali, whose other store in Bury, Greater Manchester is called Colorado’s, says he is disappointed to have been handed a £12,000 legal bill and has vowed never to invite Tesla boss Musk to eat at his premises.
He said: ‘I felt very disappointed after all this. All I can say is that it’s simply because a big company (took over) a small company, nothing more.
‘When I lost him, I felt a little hurt, but I just tried to keep a secret and not tell anyone.
‘I had been fighting them for 18 months. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep well and at that time it was a bit difficult for me.’
He added of Musk: “If you asked me, ‘Will you invite him?’, I would say ‘no.’
The restaurant worker said he had originally applied for his trademark because he was hoping to open a new takeaway business in the Greater Manchester area.
He already had a chicken shop called Colorado’s, but felt that his new branch would need a new name since it would have a different identity and would sell pizza as well as chicken.
Ali claims he came up with ‘Tesla Chicken and Pizza’ because the famous inventor had left an impression on him when he was young.
And he planned for his new restaurant to have a mural dedicated to the pioneer, who pioneered modern alternating current electricity supply systems.
As it happens, the laboratory of Nikola Tesla’s most famous inventor, the Tesla Experiment Station, was based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.
Mr Ali said: ‘When I was young, I read about him… I don’t know if it’s true or not, but some people claim that he invented many things.
‘For my Colorado brand, we only make chicken, but with Tesla Chicken & Pizza I also wanted to make pizza.
“And we were planning that when we opened the restaurant we would have a wall with a picture of Nikola Tesla.”
His trademark was successfully registered in the ’43 class’ for food and beverage services, but his plans for a new restaurant were stalled due to the pandemic.
And in November 2021, it received emails from the IPO, saying that another party had applied for the ‘Tesla’ trademark in the same section.
Surprised, Ali said he had no idea electric car maker Tesla was behind the app until he researched them online.
Ali says he doesn’t have time to resent Tesla for its legal action, but he says Elon Musk won’t be welcome in his chicken shop anytime soon.
The proposed sign for Tesla Chicken & Pizza (left) and Tesla Inc: can you tell the difference?
Nikola Tesla demonstrates a “magnifying transmitter”, a form of Tesla coil, in his laboratory in Colorado Springs, USA, in 1899. The photograph was taken as a clever multiple exposure, giving the impression that Tesla was sitting between active arcs of electricity.
Musk had tweeted that he could implement a 1950s 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-entrepreneur taking on one of the richest man’s companies, so I found a lawyer and called him.”
Working with his lawyer, he said Tesla representatives offered him £750 to sell them the rights to his trademark in May 2022.
But he was shocked by this proposal and claims he later joked to his legal team that only ‘£750,000’ would be enough to allow him to give it up.
Ali said his lawyer then relayed this to Tesla representatives as fact, and they then used it to successfully argue that he had acted in “bad faith.”
He continued: “At that point, they made me laugh and I got angry, I just quickly responded to my lawyer: ‘Tell them that my client will accept their offer with a “k” next to it.”
But my solicitor replied: “You won’t take £750, you’ll take £750,000.” Tesla’s lawyer used that against me.
Court documents also revealed how Tesla lawyers argued that a tweet sent by Elon Musk in January 2018 made clear his ambitions to start a restaurant franchise using the company’s name.
It said, “I’m putting an old-school drive-in, roller skates, and a rock restaurant at one of the new Tesla Supercharger locations in Los Angeles.”
They also suggested that Ali was “familiar with the trademark system” and was aware of Musk’s massive $206 billion fortune due to his social media posts.
But after the case, he said many people were aware of Musk’s wealth and questioned whether the tweet was a legitimate business proposal since it had not yet materialized.
He fumed: ‘I said, ‘I haven’t opened my restaurant yet, but neither have you?’
As part of the IPO ruling at the end of November last year, he was forced to pay Tesla £4,000 while also shelling out £8,000 in legal fees.
But despite the crushing defeat, he holds no grudge against the richest man in the world.
Ali added: “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t hate anyone.” I’m 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 providing $7.5 million in financing after selling his shares in payments company Paypal.
A lawsuit settled in 2009 between Eberhard, Tarpenning, Musk and two other early employees means the five can legally refer to themselves as co-founders of the company.
Tesla has been contacted for comment.