It is like the victory of small David over big Goliath. Toyota, the world’s leading car maker, has received a major setback at the hands of a little known Delhi-based automobile accessory supplier — Prius Auto Industries — after the Delhi High Court refused to give exclusive rights of the name ‘Prius’ to the Japan company.
Toyota can appeal against the verdict given last Friday but is yet to decide.
While Toyota manufactures its best selling hybrid car under the name Prius, the auto accessory maker with annual sales of only Rs 3 crore based in the congested Kashmere Gate area of Delhi uses the same brand for chrome plated accessories and is in fact, an established one. Its buyers include names such as General Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra and Hyundai.
Justice Indermeet Kaur did not find merit in Toyota’s argument that the use of its trade mark will affect sales of its own new car. The court accepted the contention of Prius Auto that its brand has been registered under India’s Trade Mark Act since 2002. In its petition Toyota had claimed its right over the trademark on the ground that ‘Prius’ was registered in more than 40 countries, and asserted its prerogative to use the name in India.
Prius Auto’s lawyer Deepak Jain said the use of the Prius trademark for accessories was legal and Toyota had not objected to it for more than six years.
Justice Kaur said Toyota’s use of the name in 40 other countries would make no difference.
The verdict said: “Plaintiff (Toyota) has given up all claims of any on the use of trademark Prius as he has knocked the doors of the court after an unexplainable delay of more than six years.” Moreover, the Toyota has no running business in with the name of Prius, it said.
When contacted, Toyota said it will it decide whether or not to appeal in the Supreme Court after studying the judgement. It added around 70 Prius vehicles have been booked and the first Prius will be delivered in India later this month, adding the verdict will not hit sales.
Prius Auto's CEO Sandeep Verma said he will contest Toyota it the Japanese auto maker decides to approach the Supreme Court, and ruled out an out-of-court settlement.
“This name is what we have (after our success) and we are not going to trade it for anything,” he said.
Brandname squabbles are not new in the industry in which Hyundai and Renault have locked horns over the latter's car—Sanderos, which sounds similar to Santro. Recently, Maruti could not use its global name Splash for its compact car Ritz, as that was already registered with Ford India.