Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lexus' continuing trademark battles with pirates

Toyota continues to fight LEXUS copycats. See the report on earlier decisions here.

Now Toyota filed another lawsuit over its Lexus brand and logo registered in the name of a local businessman, Lie Sugiarto. Lie has several registrations in class 9 and 11 the specifications for which might upset a car company.

The problem of unauthorised local trademark registrations is a symptom of Indonesia being a relatively open economy in the 80s and 90s, allowing easy access to international brand information. Yet Indonesia remained a low IP priority for many companies despite the huge market potential of the 4th largest country in the world by population. So a culture of local registration of famous brands grew up. Preventing it was tough with the courts being unsympathetic and often corrupt.

The establishment of the Commercial Court's very effective IP jurisdiction in 2001 resulted in a large number of older and well known pirate registrations being cancelled. But the culture of applying for others' marks remains. Some local pirates (STTC is the most famous) have hundreds of well known brands registered. And when it is not caught at opposition stage, or the Examiner hearing the opposition is unsympathetic, then there is no alternative but to go to court to cancel pirate marks. This is a fact of having successful international brands. Indonesia could go further to assist IP holders by creating a less formal and costly solution than Commerical Court litigation. This is common in other countries, by allowing cancellation actions at the Trademarks Office. But then again, given the history of institutional weakness created by the previous president Soeharto, which still lives on today, we should take successful institutions like the Commercial Court and be thankful! At least companies like Toyota are winning, slowly but surely.

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