�David Welch and Elisabeth Behrmann
Model 3 in late 2017. “Technologywise, things will probably move back to the U.S. to an extent after Europe was the center of premium carmaking for the past 30 years,” says Volvo’s Samuelsson. That’s in part why Porsche said in December that within five years it will build its Mission E, a fastcharging, four-door luxe sports car that will target Tesla’s Model S sedan. Audi plans to build its electric E-tron Quattro SUV as a direct rival to Tesla’s Model X SUV. And Mercedes is planning four EVS to take on Tesla.
Tesla doesn’t have to sell huge numbers of the Model 3 to begin hurting both demand—and profitability— of traditional luxury brands. That’s because until the German marques launch their competing EVS, they may have to cut prices to avoid losing market share to Tesla or trim production to match lower demand.
Competition from the Model 3 might prompt German carmakers to drop some prices as much as 10 percent to defend their U.S. market share, says Stuart Pearson, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas. Tesla is aiming the Model 3 at “those looking to spend roughly $40,000 on a car, and that’s the core target market for BMW and Mercedes basically,” he says. “The fact is they don’t really have an answer to the Model 3 until the next decade.” suffered at the hands of a U.S. flower breeder and marketer in a recent trademark and patent infringement lawsuit.
Westhoff developed a flower called Candy Bouquet, a magenta-and-yellow variety that looks like a small petunia. In a lawsuit filed on May 4 in federal district court in Pittsburgh, Westhoff claims California-based distributor Proven Winners copied the variety, then interfered with Westhoff’s sales efforts, derailing a deal to sell the flower to Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement chain. In the process, Westhoff alleges that Proven Winners maligned the German breeder’s reputation.
Candy Bouquet is a variety of the South American plant called calibrachoa, informally known as “million bells” or “little petunia” because of its resemblance to the better-known annual. The plant is gaining in popularity, with $44.6 million in sales in 2014 in the U.S. for calibrachoa, compared with $29 million in 2009, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures. The flowers are considered easy to grow, come in a variety of colors, and produce blooms from spring to fall.
Flowers and other plants Proven
that appearp in nature can’t Winners’ Holy Moly be patented.pat Instead, com companies develop var varieties through graftin ing or budding and obtain patents under the 1930 Plant Patent Ac Act for ones that pro produce asexually, with without seeds. Mo More than 375 patents ha have been issued for c calibrachoa varieties, according to data compiled by B Bloomberg. Westhoff has 28 of those, including the “Wescacandy” Westhoff’s
patent for Candy Bouquet Candy
issued last December. Bouquet After unveiling Candy Bouquet at Home Depot’s vendor show in February 2014, Westhoff claims the retailer’s reps expressed interest in being the exclusive seller of the flower in North America. According to the complaint, Westhoff says Proven Winners, having seen the flower at the same trade show, tried to trademark the name Candy Bouquet. The application,
12.4% 11.6% 11% 10.6% 10.4% 10% 9.6% 8.5% 8.5% 8.3% 7.6% 7.5% 7.5% 7% 5.9% 4.9% 4.7% 19.3% 19.2% 17.2% 16.3% 16% German luxury cars 23.2% 20% 27.6%
filed in September 2014, was initially rejected and then abandoned, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office documents. Then, the lawsuit claims, Proven Winn Winners developed its own variety, Holy Moly, working with a U.S. breeder named Plant21, and told several g growers and Home Depot that Wes Westhoff’s version was a knockoff. Prov Proven Winners threatened to “take action” against anyone growing Candy Bouquet, the lawsuit says, cuttingcut off potential suppliers.
Westh Westhoff seeks compensation for the alleged patent and trademark infringement, as well as unspecified damages for the lost business. It’s also asking for a court order to stop Proven Winners from further infringing its patent and making false statements about Candy Bouquet.
Proven Winners was started two decades ago by three growers who wanted to create a national brand name for plants. Through Executive Director Mark Broxon, the company declined to comment on the lawsuit. Home Depot, which is not a party to the lawsuit, also declined to comment.
Home Depot and its rivals have become increasingly important to the garden supply industry’s breeders, growers, and distributors. The big-box retailers have squeezed out mom and pop garden stores, and there’s been consolidation among distributors and breeders as well. Annuals such as the calibrachoa, petunia, and begonia are the moneymakers for garden sales, although growth has started to slow in recent years, says Marvin Miller, market-research manager of Ball Horticultural in West Chicago, Ill., a global gardening company not involved in the lawsuit. With fewer, bigger companies and slower sales, there could be more flower fights. “People are not gardening the way ththey used to,” Miller says. “The players rerealize that when they want to grow, ththey have to do it at the expense of a competitor.” �Susan Decker and Mmatthew Townsend