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Toyota trademark dispute over Crown logo

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As reported by the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), Toyota Motor Corporation has been sued for trademark infringement based on the sale of the company’s Crown model sedans in China.

The Toyota Crown luxury sedans sold by Toyota primarily in Asian markets.

The Toyota Crown is a luxury sedan sold by Toyota primarily in Asian markets.

The plaintiff is a Hubei-based company named Wuhan Municipal Sanitation Machinery Co., Ltd. (hereinafter “Wuhan Machinery”), a 40-year-old supplier of specialty vehicles and other mechanical products for municipal environment and sanitation use (e.g., sewage and garbage truck). Wuhan Machinery is the owner of China Trademark Registration No. 217925, covering a crown-shaped logo for specialty vehicles (特种汽车) in International Class 12.

Toyota requested that the CTMO cancel Wuhan Municipal Sanitation Machinery's trademark registration due to non-use.

Wuhan Municipal Sanitation Machinery owns a device trademark registration in International Class 12.

In December 2014, Toyota requested that the China Trademark Office (CTMO) cancel Wuhan Machinery’s trademark registration based on non-use. Article 49 of the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China states, “Where a registered trademark … has not been used for an uninterrupted period of three years without justified reasons, any entity or individual may request that Trademark Office cancel the registered trademark.” The CTMO rejected Toyota’s request, and Wuhan Machinery’s trademark registration remains valid.

The tables turned in November 2015, when Wuhan Machinery sued Toyota and a Wuhan-based automobile dealer for trademark infringement, based on the similarity of the Toyota Crown’s logo to Wuhan Machinery’s registered device trademark. Wuhan Machinery claims that it has held a valid registration for its device trademark since 1984, has never failed to use this trademark (i.e., for three continuous years), and is recognized as a famous trademark in Hubei province. Wuhan Machinery further claims that Toyota has infringed Wuhan Machinery’s device trademark registration since the date Toyota started Chinese Crown production in Tianjin; and requests a court order to (i) force Toyota to cease and desist all use of the crown trademark, (ii) destroy relevant publicity materials, and (iii) compensate pay Wuhan Machinery RMB 2 million in damages for economic loss. The case is ongoing in Hubei Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court.

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