Trademark for BYD Dolphin Mini electric car under review by BMW

BMW – owner of the Mini small-car brand – is reviewing options for potential legal action after Chinese electric-car giant BYD filed a trademark for the ‘Dolphin Mini’ city hatch locally.

A trademark by Chinese car maker BYD in Australia for a new cut-price Dolphin Mini electric car has caught the attention of German car giant BMW – owner of small-car specialist Mini.

Legal representatives for Mini Australia are said to be reviewing the trademark for ‘BYD Dolphin Mini’, filed on 8 February 2024 in the category which covers cars, electric motors and other related automotive goods.

The Dolphin Mini is the name for the Seagull – a pint-sized five-door electric hatch – in export markets, including Brazil and Mexico where it has recently gone on sale priced from about $AU32,500.

If the BYD Dolphin Mini trademark was to be approved – and the car was introduced in Australia – it would be a direct competitor to a Mini Cooper electric hatch with which it shares part of its name.

The Australian distributor for BYD vehicles, EVDirect, has previously told Drive it has no plans to sell the Seagull – or Dolphin Mini – in Australia.

EVDirect managing director Luke Todd told Drive this month “it is a normal course of business” to stop others registering BYD’s model names, and “doesn’t confirm a vehicle is coming into the country, nor rule it out.”

A spokesperson for Mini Australia said in a written statement to Drive: “BMW Group is aware of applications from BYD related to their ‘Dolphin Mini’ in Australia.

“The matter is currently under review by our legal department, and they have chosen not to provide further comments on this ongoing matter.”

BMW has held the trademark for the Mini badge since March 1997 – more than 25 years ago – and for the ‘Mini Cooper’ name since June 1996, shortly after the British car brand came under German ownership.

No other car companies have filed for a motor vehicle trademark in Australia with ‘Mini’ in the name.

It is unclear if the BYD Dolphin Mini trademark was indicative of plans to sell the vehicle in Australia, as a cheaper alternative to the regular BYD Dolphin, priced from $38,890 plus on-road costs and already Australia’s new electric car.

It is believed the lack of certainty the vehicle would receive a five-star ANCAP safety rating – as it has not been engineered with sale in Europe and Australia in mind – is a factor in it not coming here.

“At the moment I would say that we’ve made the commitment that we’re targeting our passenger vehicles that we bring into the country [to have] five-star [ANCAP safety] ratings,” Mr Todd told Drive in 2022.

“The Seagull, because of the size and compact nature of that vehicle … it’s very hard to obtain five stars on compact cars, and that is a compact car. That’s the decision we’re working through at the moment,” the executive said at the time.

BYD has confirmed it intends to launch four new models in Australia this year, only two of which it has named – the Seal U mid-size plug-in hybrid SUV, and a new dual-cab ute.

MORE:Search Used BYD Cars for Sale
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Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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