In March 2019, two companies were promising to sell Hispano Suiza cars. One of them was the Grup Peralada in Spain, and the other was in Switzerland, established by Erwin Leo Himmel. He was Volkswagen’s and Audi’s former head of design from 1990 up to 1999. The designer claimed to have valid trademarks for the brand in Spain, Germany, France, and Singapore.
Thanks to Bristows LLP – a prestigious law firm involved with trademarks – I was able to clarify that Himmel actually has trademarks for the logo in the UK and for both the name and the logo in Germany, France, Austria, and Monaco.
Two more people want the Hispano Suiza brand. Marta Pou Portús was involved with the project when she and Himmel had a relationship. When they broke up, she tried to keep the brand. Portús has the trademark for the name in Spain, Monaco, Japan, USA, China, Liechtenstein, and San Marino.
The designer Gonzalo Ramírez worked with Himmel, and he also wants to own the brand, but he has no valid trademarks for the name or the logo, according to Bristows LLP.
With these four parties disputing the legal right to present vehicles with the Spanish brand, it is possible one company owns the rights in one country, and others have them in other places. For the Grup Peralada to sell the Carmen anywhere, it must secure branding rights in markets worldwide.
Himmel’s company seems to be still in place. The website for his version of Hispano Suiza is still online and presenting the Maguari – the V10 car based on the Audi R8 that he would sell as a Hispano Suiza. Both he and Ramírez said they did not believe the Carmen could be homologated in any market due to its taillights. None of these legal implications are included in the documentary.
What it helps us to understand is how the brand got so fragmented in the first place due to the Spanish Civil War. Marc Birkigt was the engineering mind behind the technical excellence Hispano Suiza’s had. His move back to Switzerland explains how Safran got involved in this whole story.
The French aircraft engine manufacturer has several Hispano Suiza patents, only two of them related to vehicles. It has apparently sided with Grup Peralada, but we cannot say that for sure. This automotive soap opera and its multiple twists surely deserve a documentary. Deutsche Welle may be interested in shooting a part 2, exploring all the legal mess the brand is involved in.