Toyota Prius Trademark Battle Lost By Manufacturer To A Local Auto Company because Japanese giant never trademarked the name Prius in India, till it was launched first
In a shocking news to the Japanese automobile major Toyota, it lost a legal battle in the Supreme Court for exclusive trademark rights over ‘Prius’, the name under which it had launched its first mass-produced hybrid car in Japan in 1997 and in the UK, Australia and other countries in the world from 2000-2001.
The reason for Toyota losing exclusive use of the ‘Prius’ trademark in India was the late launch of the hybrid car in the country, in 2010. Toyota found that an auto spare parts maker, Prius Auto Industries, had been using the name ‘Prius’ as well as ‘Toyota’ for its products. Clearly a fishing case indeed. The company also had products named ‘Toyota Innova’ and ‘Toyota Device’ for automobile parts it manufactured and supplied to the car manufacturing giant in the first place.
After several rounds of litigation in court over the years, which Toyota had moved to protect its trademarks, the auto parts maker was restrained from using the name ‘Toyota’, ‘Toyota Innova’ and ‘Toyota Devices’. However, the battle was half won. The Delhi-based auto parts maker was permitted to use the ‘Prius’ trademark because it indeed registering it first.
Toyota moved the SC seeking to restrain the auto parts manufacturer from using the name ‘Prius’ and said it had obtained trademark registration of ‘Prius’ in Japan in 1990 and eventually in other countries throughout the world.
However, since the hybrid car was launched in India in 2010, Toyota had not registered the ‘Prius’ trademark in India till then. A critical amount of time was lost, precisely that is 20 years.
The delay in seeking cancellation of the ‘Prius’ trademark, registered by Prius Auto Industries in 2002 for all types of auto spare parts and accessories, played a vital role in Toyota losing the legal battle in the SC. There is still hope for the company if they come to a settlement outside the court even now.