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Renault plan to name car 'Zoe' sparks legal spat

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Renault plan to name car 'Zoe' sparks legal spat

Jenny Barchfield / Associated Press

Paris— A French lawyer has a warning for parents-to-be: Naming your baby girl Zoe could set her up for a lifetime of annoyances — everything from playground teasing to sexual come-ons.

At least that's the contention of David Koubbi, who is wrangling with French carmaker Renault about its plans to call its new electric car "Zoe."

Koubbi is representing the parents of two little girls named Zoe Renault — no relations to the French automaker — who are outraged their daughters might have to share their names with a car. They want Renault to find another — non-human — name for the model.

A judge is expected to rule on the case later today.

"There's a line between living things and inanimate objects and that line is defined by the first name," Koubbi told the Associated Press in an interview. "We're telling Renault one very simple thing: First names are for humans."

That means names shouldn't be co-opted by multinational companies to market products, he said.

"Can an industrialist swoop in and steal our names so as to sell his products?" Koubbi asked. "We don't think so."

While it's clear the Zoe Renaults of the world would be most affected by the release of the car — slated for 2012 — Koubbi insisted that all France's estimated 35,000 Zoes would feel the sting.

"Can you imagine what little Zoes would have to endure on the playground, and even worse, when they get a little bit older and someone comes up to them in a bar and says, 'Can I see your airbags?' or 'Can I shine your bumper?' " Koubbi said.

The two Zoes at the heart of the case are 2 and 8 years old and their parents are not seeking any damages, Koubbi said.

Renault, one of France's two main carmakers, has already given several of its cars female first names — including its compact hatchback Megane and its mini Clio — both popular girls' names in France. There was no organized opposition to either name.

Yet the spat over the "Zoe" has garnered considerable media attention in France, where a petition on a Facebook page called "Zoe's not a car name" has garnered more than 6,000 signatures.

In June, Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said he was aware of the issue and wanted to avoid any controversy that could potentially hurt the car's sales.

"We don't want our car to come on the market with a name which is a handicap," he told Europe-1 radio.

A Renault spokeswoman said today the automaker had no further comment on the matter.

Koubbi, a high-profile lawyer who's represented French celebrity clients in the past, is handling the case on a pro-bono basis.


Because his stepdaughter's name is Zoe.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101110/AUTO01/11100401/Renault-plan-to-name-car-‘Zoe’-sparks-legal-spat#ixzz14wIWNRK1

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Girls named Zoe lose suit against Renault for naming electric car Zoe

04:23 PM

Renault today dodged a bullet for car companies trying to christen new models: being sued because it's someone's name. A French judge said it could keep the name Zoe for its cute little electric car with spa-like aroma therapy ventilation due out mid 2012.

Lawyer David Koubbi sued on behalf of two girls named Zoe Renault (ages 2 and 8 ), contending their name on the car would set them up for a lifetime of grief, from playground taunts to sexual innuendo. He said his Zoe Renaults (no relation to company founder Louis Renault) would be most hurt, but all of France's estimated 35,000 Zoes would feel the sting.

"Can you imagine what little Zoes would have to endure on the playground, and even worse, when they get a little bit older and someone comes up to them in a bar and says, 'Can I see your air bags?' or 'Can I shine your bumper?'" Koubbi told The Associated Press in an interview.

Seems a reach to us -- and a French judge agreed, ruling the parents would have a case only if they proved the car name would cause the girls "certain, direct and current harm."

Companies naming a car already tiptoe through a minefield to avoid rights issues, vulgar or negative meanings in other languages, names unpronounceable in some countries, etc.

Koubbi said he'll appeal, but Renault is sure to keep fighting. Two of its current models -- Megane and Clio -- already carry popular girls' names in France.

Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said in June he was aware of the Zoe issue and wanted to avoid any controversy that could hurt sales. But a Renault official told the AP there are no plans to change the name: "We ordered several studies that showed that it's not a handicap for the car, so there's no reason to make any changes. We're very happy with the judge's decision."

Ironically, the little $20,000 electric hatchback clearly aims to be popular with women, not least for the novel skin treatment and scent system in the ventilation developed with cosmetics maker L'Oreal. Here's Renault's description of the "sensuous" Zoe preview model shown recently at the Paris Auto Show:

ZOE Preview is evidence that "zero-emission" cars can combine sensuous, reassuring, sculpted styling with the promise of real driving enjoyment.The forward position of its windscreen and the teardrop form of its rear end emphasise the impression of fluidity, while its specific electric-car architecture permit a blunt bonnet and an intake-free front-end which contribute to its compact footprint and efficient aerodynamics.

It stands at just 4.10 metres in length and is powered by 60kW (80hp) motor with torque of 222Nm (124 lbs.-ft.) that enables it to zip silently through city traffic. ZOE Preview is also ideal for out-of-town journeys thanks to its 19-inch wheels and reassuring, profiled flanks.

Renault ZOE Preview's battery can be charged in one of three ways: standard charge (between 6 and 8 hours depending on the available electric power), quick charge (37 miles range in less than 10 minutes or 80% battery capacity in 30 minutes) or "quickdrop" (a 3-minute battery exchange).

A "Spa Car" for the ultimate relaxing ride

Renault ZOE Preview's equipment package ensures the wellbeing of its occupants thanks to a triple-effect system developed in association with Biotherm, the skin biology brand of L'Oréal's Luxury Products Division:

Skin hydration: Conventional air conditioning systems can have a dehydrating effect on skin during longer journeys, but ZOE Preview's smart climate control system automatically adjusts the humidity level inside the car to optimise the comfort of its occupants.

Detox effect: A toxicity sensor monitors air quality and automatically closes the air vents if necessary. Harmful substances are trapped in the cabin filter to ensure that cabin air stays clean at all times.

Stimulating or relaxing scent diffuser: An electric system actively releases different scents depending on the needs of the moment (e.g. a relaxing fragrance during the drive home from work or, on the contrary, a scent to stimulate driver vigilance when traveling at night).

This package comes along with a specific audio ambience, with music selected in partnership with specialist agency Creative Diffusion (associated with Qwartz, International New Music Awards) to harmonise the audio and relaxing experience inside the car.

Finally, ZOE Preview features a light therapy function. The central screen exudes a light that stimulates the occupants' energy and further enhances the impression of wellbeing. This feature forms part of a joint-project with the world-renowned light therapy specialist, Philips.



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Court Gives Renault Green Light to Use Zoe Name

By William Diem

WardsAuto.com, Nov 10, 2010 2:21 PM

PARIS – A French judge will let Renault SA call its 2012 electric car the Renault Zoe, over the objections of two families who have daughters named Zoe Renault.

The families formed an association for the defense of first names and family names and argued their girls will be teased because they have the name of a car. Their lawyer asked the courts Oct. 13 to prevent Renault from using the name Zoe (which has a ZE in it, for Zero Emissions).

However, the Tribunal de Grande Instance ruled Nov. 10 not to grant the request, saying there was no imminent harm, nor an attack on privacy or dignity as a result of Renault using the name on a car.

“Renault is satisfied with this decision,” the company says in a statement.



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Renault can keep Zoe name for electric cars

The Zoe is due to go on sale in 2012 as part of a big push towards electric vehicles by Renault and Nissan.

November 11, 2010 09:46 CET

PARIS (Reuters) -- Renault said it can keep the name Zoe for its future small electric car after a judge ruled that girls called Zoe did not face imminent harm or a threat to their private life or dignity.

Lawyer David Koubbi had brought a case against the carmaker's choice of name on behalf of Zoes and two women named Zoe Renault in particular. He said he would appeal the ruling, French newspaper Le Figaro said.

"For my clients, it would be intolerable to hear 'the Zoe has broken down' or indeed 'he or she killed herself in a Zoe'," Koubbi had written in a letter to Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn.

In the letter, which was published on the Web site of ADNP -- a French association for the defense of given names -- Koubbi said he was already hearing reports from his clients of the teasing girls called Zoe were suffering at school.

Zoe is the 11th most popular given name in France according to L'Officiel des Prenoms -- a list of the most popular names given each year.

The compact Zoe electric car -- whose Z and E stand for Zero Emissions -- is due to go on sale in 2012, part of a big push towards electric vehicles by Renault and its Japanese alliance partner Nissan Motor Co.

The partners are jointly investing 4 billion euros in electric vehicles.

Nissan's Leaf hatchback is due to arrive in some European markets early next year, while Renault's first two electric models, the Fluence and the Kangoo, will go on sale in September.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101111/ANE/311119970/1193#ixzz14zOGEAdZ

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Renault Sued For Naming New Car Zoe

“First names are for humans,” argues lawyer for two young girls named Zoe Renault.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.11, 2010

It's probably a nice name - unless your name is Zoe Renault.

It can be tough to be given the wrong name. But what’s the problem with being named Zoe? Nothing – at least not until a French automaker decided to use that name for one of its new models.

Now, Renault is facing a legal challenge filed on behalf of two young girls who just happened to be named Zoe Renault.

“First names are for humans,” attorney David Koubbi told the Associated Press, explaining why he has gone to court to block the automaker from launching its new electric car, the Renault Zoe.

(The fact that Koubbi’s own daughter is name Zoe convinced him to take the case on pro bono, the AP reports.)

While a French court this week rejected Koubbi’s claim, he plans to appeal.

“Can an industrialist swoop in steal our names so as to sell his products?” Koubbi added, explaining his case for the two girls, aged 2 and 8 – never mind the 35,000 other French women that bear that name.

While other common names, including the Renault Clio, have not kicked up a stir, the campaign to challenge the carmaker’s use of Zoe has already generated 6,000 signatures on Facebook.

And in an interview with Europe-1 radio, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn hinted that the automaker might wave the white flag. “We don’t want our car to come on the market with a name that is a handicap,” he declared during an interview.

Picking a name for a new car has become an increasingly difficult challenge, especially in the age of globalization. A classic example is the old Chevrolet Nova which, in Spanish, translated loosely into “no go.” Volkswagen’s Sharan minivan took some teasing from the British, who use that name for a naughty sort of girl. And even the brand name Lexus created problems for Toyota, 20 years ago, when the owners of the Lexis/Nexis database server sued to block its use. Eventually, Toyota prevailed in a lawsuit.

But such incidents help explain why more and more makers have abandoned evocative names, like Fairlane, Bonneville or possibly Zoe, more and more migrating to less emotional but safer alphanumeric designations. Unless your new model is named THX1138 – the title of an early George Lucas film, your company is likely not going to offend anyone.

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