It's not every day you happen to read a David vs Goliath, but on this day Toyota has lost its right to the Prius brand on Indian soil. After a supreme court bench concluded a trademark rights case between Toyota and a Spare parts company in the country in favour of the latter. Resulting in Toyota losing rights to the Prius name. The court cited the main reason for Prius losing this battle was the fact that the Toyota Prius wasn’t in India until 2010, although it was first trademarked in Japan in 1997. Followed by the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States between 2000-01.
While this Prius Auto has lost the smaller battle for the names 'Toyota', 'Toyota Innova' and 'Toyota Device' for automobile parts it manufactured and supplied to the car manufacturing giant. It has now lost the rights to use these names but has won the battle for the basic brand name ie Prius Auto Industries as a trademark.
Toyota had originally moved the Supreme Court, to restrain the parts-manufacturer from using the name Prius siting that they had originally obtained the trademark in 1990. However, Toyota lost the case on the grounds that the brand name was not trademarked on Indian soil till 2010. Considering that Prius Auto Industries had originally applied for the for the trademark in 2002.
Writing the judgment, Justice Gogoi said, "This would show either lack of goodwill in the domestic market or lack of knowledge and information of the product among a significant section of Indian population. Even proof of knowledge about Prius with that section of the small population, which kept domain knowledge about automobiles, is not prominent."
Agreeing with the HC, the bench said, "The brand name of the car Prius had not acquired the degree of goodwill, reputation and the market or popularity in the Indian market so as to get Toyota the necessary attributes of the right of a prior user so as to successfully maintain an action of passing off even against registered owner (Prius Auto Industries)."