History : Brand ownership


Many of you will know that BMW AG retained ownership of the intellectual property rights (IPRs) to the Rover marque when Rover Group Limited was sold to Phoenix Venture Holdings Limited for the nominal sum £10 in May 2000. Rover Group Limited was re-named MG Rover Group Limited (MGR) and was licensed to use the Rover IPRs by BMW AG.  

MG Rover Group Limited went into Administration on 8 April 2005 and the company’s remaining assets were subsequently purchased by Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation (NAC). The IPRs to the Rover brand reverted to BMW AG under the terms of the licence agreement referred to above and were subsequently acquired by Ford Motor Company for an undisclosed sum (estimated to be about £10m).

However, the ownership of some of the other BMC>MGR marque and model names is less widely known. The current position in November 2016 is that, since SAIC Motor Corporation Limited’s (SAIC Motor) takeover of NAC on 1 April 2008, many of the originally MGR-owned IPRs have been transferred to that company but a significant number of the UK (as opposed to EU) registered trade marks which remained vested in NAC have been allowed to expire and are now dead.

The Ford Motor Company-owned IPRs to the Rover marque and certain associated models were acquired when Tata Motors Limited bought what is now Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc on 2 June 2008 and are vested in the latter’s subsidiary, Jaguar Land Rover Limited.

Here, then, is an updated list detailing the ownership of the various BMC>MGR names…

Marque Names
Name Current Owner
Austin SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
Austin-Healey * SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
Austin Healey SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
BMC * Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
MG SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
Morris * SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
Princess Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Riley BMW AG
Rover Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Sterling ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Triumph BMW AG
Vanden Plas Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Wolseley * Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation


Model Names
Name Current Owner
Austin-Healey Sprite * Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
BMC Special Tuning Abingdon ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Clubman BMW AG
Dolomite BMW AG
Kestrel BMW AG
Magna ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Metro BMW AG
MG Magnette SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MGB SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MG Express SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MGF SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MG Magnette SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MGR SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MG TF SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MG ZR SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MG ZS SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MG ZT SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
MG ZT-T SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
Midget */** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
MINI Cooper Monte Carlo BMW AG
Montaine ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Montego ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Morris Minor * SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
Princess Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Rover Sport *** Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Rover 100 Series *** Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Rover 200 Series N/A
Rover 400 Series N/A
Rover 600 Series *** Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Rover 800 Series N/A
Rover 25 Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Rover 35 Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Rover 45 Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Rover 55 Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Rover 75 Jaguar Land Rover Limited
Spitfire BMW AG
Streetwise SAIC Motor Corporation Limited
Vitesse ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation


Miscellaneous Names
Name Current Owner
CDT Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Connoisseur Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Countryman BMW AG
CTD Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Hairpins ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Kensington ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Knightsbridge BMW AG
Sprite ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Steptronic BMW AG
Stepspeed ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Straights ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
TR 4 Triumph BMW AG
Vi ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
Vitesse ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation
VVC ** Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation

NB: 1) MG Rover Group Limited acquired the rights to the single-asterisked trade marks from British Motor Heritage Limited (for use on spare parts) on 10 December 2003 and these were then transferred to NAC in 2005.

NB: 2) The double-asterisked trade marks are UK-only registered ones which have subsequently been allowed to expire by NAC and are now classified by the Intellectual Property Office as dead. Interestingly, though, the status of the NAC-owned UK trade mark for Sterling is given as removed.

NB: 3) The triple-asterisked trade marks are UK-only registered ones which were allowed to expire by Jaguar Land Rover Limited during 2015 and are now classified by the Intellectual Property Office as dead.

British Motor Heritage Limited’s use of Trade Marks


British Motor Heritage Limited was established in 1975 (as BL Heritage Limited) to support owners and the marketplace by putting genuine components for classic British cars back into manufacture, using original tools wherever possible. Since 2001, when the company was acquired from BMW, it has been successfully run as an independent company.

British Motor Heritage owns the Heritage trade mark together with MOWOG, Nuffield, Standard, Stanpart and Steelcraft marks and the Heritage Motor Parts brand, and is licensed by the trade mark owners to use the MG, Mini, Austin-Healey, Triumph, Rover, Austin, Morris, Riley, Vanden Plas, Wolseley, Special Tuning and BMC trade marks and logos.

Through its approval process, it is responsible for the licensing of vehicle, merchandise and publishing products and outlets using the non-current trade marks and logos originally owned by vehicle manufacturers. It is a Member of the Institute of Vehicle Engineers – SAE UK and Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs.

The above text has been taken from the website of British Motor Heritage Limited.

Based on original research by Ian Robertson, with thanks to Laurence Curtis for further information, and extensively updated by AROnline’s Contributing Editor, Clive Goldthorp, in November 2016. All the names listed above are either EU and/or UK-registered trade marks as recorded on the UK’s Intellectual Property Office’s website.

Also worth reading…

History : The evolution of the AR logo


Clive Goldthorp


  1. “However, the ownership of some of the other marque/model names by NAC-MG is less widely known. And following SAIC’s takeover of NAC, all Chinese rights moved to this company. Ford’s ownership has now passed to Tata.” In the last sentence I am sure you mean that ownership of the Rover marque has now passed to Tata, rather than Ford Motor Company itself being acquired by Tata?

    The Vitesse name was first used in 1914 by Austin, then from 1934 by Triumph. The Rover marque then used it from October 1982 and even Land Rover used it for a limited edition Range Rover for the North American market in 1997.

    The ‘Westminster’ name is an interesting one as Land Rover used it in 2001 for a limited edition Range Rover derivative in the 38A range, and again in 2009 for the current L322 line-up. I wonder what the current arrangement is for Land Rover’s continued use of the name?

    It does raise an interesting question over whether titled ownership of a sub-brand is enough to prevent another marque under different ownership from being allowed to use it.

  2. So, if BMW own the Rover name, do they also own the Alvis name as Rover bought them out in teh mid 60’s?

  3. Hornet?

    Another point – it says BMW own the MINI name, but as we know MINI and ‘Mini’ are NOT the same. So, do the capital letters make a difference or not in terms of ownership of the word ‘mini’?

  4. @ Hornet:

    The use of uppercase letters for MINI by BMW was actually their way of suggesting that they wanted to ‘go beyond’ what had previously been achieved with the name under British ownership. In other words, not be too constrained by just the one bodystyle and heritage but instead build the name into more of a global brand, which they have successfully achieved. You could also argue that MINI rather than Mini would also overcome some of the other design and manufacturing shortcomings of the original car.

    The use of uppercase lettering also neatly links in with that for the BMW abbreviation.

    @ Julian Mildren:

    That is a very good question. When The Rover Company Ltd acquired Alvis in 1965 it certainly had plans to launch new models (using components from the Rover P6) under the Alvis name. These was potentially the Alvis GTS (nicknamed as ‘Gladys’) and possibly also the mid-engined P6BS.

    However, last year there was an announcement that the Alvis name will once again adorn ‘new’ cars although I think these are potentially rebuilt versions of the TE21 using remanufactured parts – if I am wrong on this please correct me!

    The rights to the Alvis name have never been brought up before by enthusiasts, to my knowledge.

  5. The Alvis name left BL in 1982 when the military products business was sold off (this was Alvis’s main business). This business after various takeovers is part of BAE.

    The reborn Alvis company now uses the name, I don’t know whether they bought the marque from BAE or are licensing it. Either way, BAE don’t need it anymore


  6. I believe Alvis is owned by Red Triangle of Coventry, which was formed in 1967 to look after the spare parts and servicing of Alvis cars. I think they must have bought the brand off BAe Systems when they stopped using it on military vehicles. The car they launched a year or two ago was a replica of the 1939 4.3 litre.
    I thought Austin-Healey was part owned by SAIC and a Swiss registered company who bought the rights such as they existed from the Healey family.
    Isn’t Daimler owned in part now by Daimler-Benz but with Ford retaining some rights to put it on a model? Whether they included that in the transfer to Tata I know not.
    I had a feeling that Vanden Plas may be another Ford/JLR brand as it was used on upmarket Jags in the US (those with Daimler grills) and MGR seemed to hastily withdraw it from the long wheelbase Rover 75 they launched in the early days of independence.
    I had no idea of British Motor Heritage’s involvement in transferring brands like Morris to MGR.

    • There was some debate a while back on another thread about the Daimler name, some suggested that it was owned by Daimler AG the parent company of Mercedes, while the UK Daimler marque seems to still be owned by Jaguar?


      “This one is somewhat more confusing. There’s Daimler and Daimler. Daimler of Germany is formerly Daimler-Benz, DaimlerChrysler and now Daimler AG. This isn’t to be confused with Daimler of Britain, which made cars using Gottlieb Daimler’s engines. That company traded hands to the British Small Arms Company, then to Jaguar and then to Ford through PAG. The last Daimler made was the Jag XJ-rebadged Daimler Super Eight. With the purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover, Tata inherits British Daimler.”

      • I believe Daimler name is owned both by JLR and Daimler. The issue for JLR is that in the US Daimler is known as a Truck maker and therefore a Luxury car with the Daimler name would in fact be looked down on.

        • From what I’ve read, to prevent this confusion they used the Vanden Plas name for ‘Daimler’ Jags in the US.

          Daimiler trucks includes Freightliner, which the Sprinter van was once sold under, now sold as a Mercedes.

          As an aside, is Mercedes the only brand which encompasses commercial vehicles (Citan is a rebadged Kangoo!), trucks, buses and uber-luxury cars (Mercedes-Maybach) and sports cars (Mercedes-AMG) under one badge?

        • It’s been a while since I read up on this so I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a case of joint ownership of the same brand, simply the distinction between Daimler Cars of UK and the German manufacturer that is currently Daimler AG, as noted in the quote above. The rights to use the Daimler name in the UK as a separate entity never extended to the USA, hence US export Daimlers being labeled only Vanden Plas. This I’ve always assumed was derived from previous flagship model Daimler Vanden Plas used on XJ Series 1 and 2, possibly also Series 3. As far as I know Daimler and Lanchester rights are still with Jaguar, but before the daimlercars.com domain was made redundant it briefly redirected to Bentley Motors. This I always found very intriguing but never discovered any relevant information on.

    • I’m assuming Paccar do as the manufacturer of Daf vehicles is the old Leyland truck plant that is still called Leyland

      • Paccar will own the “Leyland Trucks” name and rights to the “plughole” badge, the subsidiary is still called Leyland Trucks even they are all badged Daf now.
        I guess Volvo still own the rights to “Leyland Bus”

        I’m guessing that these rights don’t cover the whole world, certainly not India (Ashok Leyland) at least

        No idea who owns the British Leyland name but then aren’t company names with “British” in them restricted in some way?

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