Despite being in global markets for so long, Toyota launched the Prius only in 2010 in India and could not prove any substantial evidence of its popularity
Toyota Prius is well-known as a hybrid car that kick started a new trend in the global automotive marketplace. So much that, every popular celebrity wanted to own one and boasted about their environmental conscience. It has done the Japanese automaker proud certainly with huge sales numbers.
While India is just on a starting phase towards electrification, Toyota has faced a legal constraint for the Prius trademark and has lost out a plea in the Supreme Court for the naming rights. The biggest reason being the Prius was launched in India only in 2010 and even before its arrival ‘Prius Auto Industries’ had been using the same name.
The automobile spare parts company was also using ‘Toyota’, ‘Toyota Innova’ and ‘Toyota Device’ names for its parts as well. Following seven rounds of litigation in the Apex Court, the Prius Auto Industries was disallowed from using all the above names except the ‘Prius’ despite Toyota making its defense.
Toyota took the auto parts maker to Supreme Court claiming that the Prius name was trademarked in Japan way back in 1990 but since the hybrid vehicle was launched only in 2010 in India it did not register for the trademark in our market. What play a major role in Toyota losing the legal battle was that the Prius Auto Industries filed for registration of Prius trademark in 2002 for all kinds of auto accessories and spare parts.
Applying the ‘territoriality principle’, Judges Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha ruled that for a worldwide company to claim exclusive use of a trademark in India, it should prove substantial reception of popularity in its favour when registered by another company or individual. Moreover, advertisements regarding ‘Prius’ locally were almost absent prior to April 2001.