• LAWGIC STRATUM

AN IN-DEPTH EXAMINATION OF TRADEMARK APPLICATIONS IN THE INDIAN AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR

Author: Karthik.T



INTRODUCTION:


David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising,” explains how trademarks influence customer decisions in a pithy but succinct way in this timeless saying: “Within every brand is a product, but not every product is a brand.” As one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, the Indian Automobile Industry is often recognised. The Indian automotive market, which now occupies fifth place in the world, will be surpassed by Germany, which currently holds the third position, by 2020. With the level of demand unprecedented, there are a lot of global automakers vying for dominance in the Indian market. Various market research has shown that Indian customers are diverse, with different preferences. This may be explained by the brands' varied population of over a billion people, which necessitates them going above and beyond to ensure that ‘consumer association' and ‘brand value' are established among their target audience.


For all intents and purposes, however, ‘Brand Value' is not a product-based concept. The key is not whether or whether customers are ready to pay more for one brand over another, but rather whether they are willing to spend more out of their own wallets. While trademarks can assist to define brand value, it is important to have a positive brand image. This essay aims to help our readers understand the critical function trademarks play in helping to build the brand reputation of an Indian automotive manufacturer's consumers. With respect to the Indian automotive sector, a trademark's importance is very significant.


With so many options for goods and services before consumers every day, they must be provided with clear and consistent advice to assist them in evaluating these many options and selecting a solution among them. That is, therefore, products/services of this kind must be identified. The trademark is defined, as the specification of a certain kind of goods/services in the market.


The trademarks or brands that serve to identify and differentiate a company's goods or services from its rivals are known as brands. When the names of automobile-based businesses are trademarked, it helps the company prevent rivals from adopting names or logos that are confusingly similar to its own. Trademarks help define the image and reputation of businesses and their goods in the eyes of prospective customers. In the marketplace, having a substantial edge gives a business a considerable advantage.


Customers who are happy with the product or service are likely to create a strong emotional connection to the brand. Many individuals consider automotive companies to have an important and unique brand identity or image, one that conveys certain ideas, characteristics, or advantages. Not only can trademarks assist commercialise goods, but they also promote the market, which ultimately aids the economy. Without a doubt, trademarks help to strengthen India's automotive sector as well as the nation's economy.


In the case of Toyota, we are facing a once-in-a-century problem.


One of the world's largest automobile businesses, TOYOTA, had to work extra hard to create a brand value because of the unique importance of trademarks in creating a brand value.


To try to make the name catchier, the business changed its name from Toyoda to Toyota in 1936. The company's logo began appearing too in the year 1990. In the middle of the current Toyota Mark are two ovals, perpendicular to each other, which depict a mutually trusting connection between Toyota and its consumers. Combining the ovals results in a logo for Toyota, which consists of two intersecting ovals. This little area in the backdrop of the Mark represents a major step in Toyota's research and development of new technologies, as well as an all-encompassing approach to their advancement. A company like Toyota is a good illustration of the kind of brand that was originally established by its goods. The trademark is without a doubt meaningful to the brand as of this day. Since, then, trademarks are almost always involved in building a brand's reputation, it is fair to conclude that trademarks are always important for brand reputation, such as with TOYOTA.


CONFLICTS BETWEEN ESTABLISHED BRANDS IN THE INDIAN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY


The emergence of several multinational automakers showing a strong predisposition towards the Indian market is not anything new, and the TRADEMARK CONFLICTS IN THE CAR INDUSTRY ARE LIKEWISE NOT. LET'S EXAMINE A COUPLE OF THESE DISAGREEMENTS, SHALL WE?

To begin with, in 1982, the Japanese car manufacturer Suzuki Motor arrived in the Indian automotive industry with enthusiasm. Maruti Udyog Limited and the Indian government worked together to create automobiles in India. Furthermore, in the year 1882, another business acquired the name “Suzuki India Limited” with obviously dishonest and maleficent purposes. The conflict that began here signaled the beginning of a decades-long struggle. Finally, the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi granted the rights of this Japanese billionaire, which granted him the well-known trademark "SUZUKI," and acknowledged his claim to "SUZUKIKOSHI." This acknowledgment is a statement on the part of the Indian legal system that Indians are acquainted with the country's automotive brands.


Many complex problems have arisen due to the increasing importance of trademarks in the Indian automotive industry. In order to provide an example, let us examine a famous case in which a Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha v. M/S Prius Auto Industries Ltd. &Ors. is profiled. The Hon'ble Apex Court of India confirmed that a trans-border reputation is necessary to define goodwill internationally. Goodwill in India is critical (refers to any time before the date of adoption of the mark by the opposite party). This decision promoted caution for other brand owners in multinational corporations in the Indian market, particularly concerning to IP.


A plethora of multinational corporations vies for the attention of the Indian automotive industry, creating a new trend referred to as “mass deterrence.” To bolster their market position, companies take the approach of pursuing lawsuits against startups, regardless of whether they would succeed. Like the other industries, this tendency is the same in the automotive industry. An e-rickshaw manufacturer of India, who used a moniker that was similar to BMW, was taken to court by BMW for trademark infringement. When it comes to the name, Om Balajee Automobile India Private Limited (a private e-rickshaw seller in India) was in the business of selling "DMW" e-rickshaws from 2013. In 2017, the automaker filed a case in the Delhi High Court, alleging that using the term "DMW" was an act of dishonesty with a dishonest motive. To illustrate its claims, the defendant discussed the disparities in customers for each of the businesses' goods. The defendant's case was soundly refuted by the Honorable Court. In agreement with the lower court, the Court held that the DMW emblem is very similar to the BMW mark, and it is highly probable to persuade even a man of average intellect to believe the two brands are the same. The influence of this ruling had a ripple effect on trademarks, passing off claims, and reputation cross-border activity.


In the recent past, an increase in the number of grievances and complaints has arisen in the non-automobile industries, particularly in the automotive industry. Recently, the same happened with Monte Carlo Fashions Ltd. and Skoda Auto India Pvt. Ltd. making a deal with each other. In this instance, Skoda India received a licence to use the trademark "Monte Carlo" from Monte Carlo. This agreement comes a year after the Court allowed a trademark infringement complaint from Monte Carlo, the owners of the trademark MONTE CARLO, to be submitted on behalf of Skoda India against them for trademark infringement in the use of the trademark MONTE CARLO with regard to a new Monte Carlo edition car. Skoda India was granted permission to use the trademark, Monte Carlo, by the corporate entities in question, and the licence included permission to use the brand on packaging, promotional, and advertising materials. In the end, the two businesses agreed to resolve the conflict with little hassle. Skoda decided to provide Monte Carlo a licence on mutually agreeable terms, allowing for the use of its brand name. In the automotive industry, counterfeiting Counterfeiting has plagued the worldwide market for the last few decades. This is true of all industries as well as the car business, and has been for many years. CASCADE commissioned a study in which researchers found that the automotive industry in India is especially susceptible to counterfeiting. Around 30% of the components industry for automobiles in India is counterfeited. Intellectual Property (IP) owners have relied on IPR to shield them against imitations and fakes. Hyundai Motor India Ltd. and many other car firms were fined $42 million by the Competition Commission of India in 2015 for not manufacturing their own spare parts, an act that was resulting in unfair trade practices and encouraging the practise of counterfeiting. After determining that the designs of Hyundai's spare parts were unregistered copyright and trade secret protections, the Commission rejected Hyundai's claims that their spare parts were duly protected, thus denying an exemption under Section 3(5) of the Competition Act, 2002, which shields the exclusive rights that are granted through IP. Despite being struck down by the Honorable Supreme Court of India, it is worth noting that this case illustrates the severity of the Indian institutions' approach to counterfeit vehicle industry intrusion. When it comes to fighting trademark counterfeiting and falsification, trademark holders have a number of remedies available, including the ones outlined in Section 102, 103, and 135 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999. As a government agency, the agency is able to play a significant role by using industry-specific remedies, such as establishing legislation that increases consumer safety on e-commerce platforms, as well as by certifying automotive components and replacement parts.

CONCLUSION


Thus, according to the phrase “Products are manufactured in the factory, but brands are formed in the mind,” it is foreseeable that the automotive industry and trademarks would be closely linked. In this day and age, cars are more than just a mechanical. At the heart of these global automotive companies is their relationship with their customers. The practicality of trademarks is clearly shown by the number of major developments in the area of branding and marketing.


References:


1.https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo_pub_653.

2.https://www.financialexpress.com/auto/car-news/intellectual-property-in-the-indian-auto-industry-and-why-its-critical/1607473/.

3.https://www.patentwire.co.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Role-of-IP_Auto-Industry.pdf.

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