Toyota loses legal battle over ‘Prius’ trademark

The Supreme Court of India has rejected Toyota's plea for exclusive trademark rights over the 'Prius' brand name. 

Toyota has been selling the Prius hybrid in Japan since 1997. The car was launched in UK, Australia and the US in 2000-01. However, Toyota didn't launch the Prius in India until 2010. By then, a Delhi-based auto spare parts maker was operating under the name - Prius Auto Industries. The company had been using the names Prius, Toyota, Toyota Innova and Toyota Device for its products. 

Toyota had filed a case against Prius Auto Industries in a lower court, which ruled in favour of the Japanese carmaker but restrained the auto parts company from using the name Toyota, Toyota Innova and Toyota Devices. However, the court didn't object to the use of 'Prius'. 

Toyota decided to pursue the case further and move the Supreme Court. However, the apex court found that Toyota had not registered the 'Prius' trademark in India till 2010 and neither did it seek cancellation of the trademark registered by Prius Auto Industries in 2002.

On the basis of 'territoriality principle', a bench comprising of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha ruled that for a global brand to claim exclusive rights to a trademark of brand name in India, it must be able to prove that the name had acquired substantial popularity in the Indian market. The bench said that just an article in the local media about the launch of the Prius hybrid in 1997 does not firmly establish the acquisition of goodwill in the Indian market. 

Source: The Economic Times

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