This one’s a head-scratcher.
All right, let’s address the elephant in the room here. Right off the bat, when most folks keeping their ears to the ground will probably perk up at the name ‘Skyline’. Even if you’re not a hardcore enthusiast, you’ve probably heard the name before. But it wasn’t Ford who made it famous in the modern era: it was Nissan’s golden child from the 1990’s. Nevertheless, Ford Authority noticed the Blue Oval filed a trademark application earlier this week.
Let’s say it together: “What?”
At least, that’s what most of us in the TFL office have been wondering as we wrap our heads around what Ford may be playing at here. To be clear, the company has used that name in the past, as our friends over at Road & Track point out. That said, we’d forgive you for not knowing that, since they just used it as a trim name on several of its models throughout the 1950s.
As for Nissan’s role in this, the Japanese automaker still uses the Skyline name — in Japan. It’s still running over there as the Nissan-branded version of the Infiniti Q50, but most folks associate the name with the iconic Skyline GT-R series, built from 1969 up through the fifth “R34” generation in 2002. Of course, these days we know its current successor simply as the GT-R. The company does not currently hold the Skyline name in the U.S., however, and that may be a reason Ford jumped in to claim the marque.
We may (or may not) see a car emerge out of this
There are a couple points against Ford just grabbing the name to troll Nissan that are worth pointing out. First is the fact that Ford’s doing it now, when Nissan hasn’t sold a ‘Skyline’ outside Japan in two decades. Ford, as with most automakers, won’t comment on exactly what their intent here is, either. Trademarks are useful in that they provide an angle for a new business approach, but filing an application doesn’t mean you have to go in that direction. As such, Ford has not committed at this point that Skyline indicates any new model or trim. That is a snappy name, though, and it may work on a Ford or Lincoln-branded EV. To be clear, they haven’t confirmed anything — that’s just a thought.
Another clue may lie within the trademark filing itself. Under filing basis and “current basis”, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists the Skyline mark as “1B”. The agency classifies that as an “intent-to-use” basis, which designates the applicant has “a bona fide intention to use [their] mark in commerce with your goods and/or services in the near future” (emphasis added). Mind you, Ford could “intend” to use it without actually using it immediately, so that may not ultimately result in something tangible to the general public.
As ever, it boils down to “we’ll have to wait and see”. You see names like “Dakota”, “Raptor” or even “Timberline” and you have a pretty good idea where that may lead. In Ford’s context, though, the only detail we know with certainty is what the company told the USPTO. This trademark applies to “Motor land vehicles, namely, SUVs, trucks and automobiles.” So…pretty much anything under Ford’s current umbrella.