Back in July, 2022, BMW learned of an attempt by a Chinese automaker to patent the classic Mini’s design for use on its own small EV. BMW being the rightful owner of Mini’s intellectual property, including all designs and patents created before BMW’s takeover, naturally protested. China’s State Intellectual Property Office has ruled in favor of BMW and has given the Chinese company, Beijing Estek Technology, three months to respond.
It isn’t hard to see why BMW objected to Beijing Estek Technology patenting the design, and why China’s government sided with BMW. The design is a blatant, exact ripoff of the iconic classic Mini. It’s not close, it’s not similar—it’s exact. Everything about the patent filing—from the overall shape, to the headlights, to the creases in the hood, and even the A-pillar crease that runs into the front fender—is identical to the original Mini. Beijing Estek Technology didn’t even try to modify it slightly.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the desire to want to use that design for small EVs, as it’s a near-perfect piece of automotive exterior design and packaging. Classic Minis also make great EVs and are a ton of fun. However, if you really want to make EVs out of classic Minis, make restomod EV conversions and sell those. Don’t try and steal the design and make new cars, pawning them off as your own. That’s uncool. BMW rightly sniffed this out and squashed Beijing Estek Technology’s plans before they could really start.
This isn’t the first time BMW has had to deal with such situations. Chinese brands have attempted to sell their own BMW lookalikes before and the Germans had to work with the Chinese patent offices to shut them down. However, this might be the most brazen attempt I’ve seen from any company to try and steal an existing automotive design.
I once drove a classic Mini converted to electric and it was one of the most fascinating and enjoyable automotive experiences I’ve ever had. It was a crude device, with a battery pack in the back seat covered by floor carpet and a functional manual transmission that was driven via belt drive from the electric motor. It had a clutch pedal but it was inoperative, so you just needed to lift off the throttle to shift gears. But the chassis and steering were exactly the same as a classic Mini, so it kept all of the original car’s go-kart handling and it was an absolute joy to drive. So I applaud any brand that wants to convert classic Minis over to electric but it needs to be done the right way, without stealing intellectual property.
[Source: Car Buzz]