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.
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.