Chinese Court Refuses to Protect Toyota Logo

26 November 2003

In a landmark decision that will send shivers down the spines of brand owners worldwide, the Beijing Second Intermediate Court of the People's Republic of China, on Monday rejected claims of alleged copyright violation.

Japanese car giant Toyota -- currently world number two after GM -- filed a copyright violation suit, alleging that China's largest indigenous automaker Geely had heisted Toyota's logo for use on its Meiri sedan, and had also used the Toyota name in promotional material.

The Beijing court ruled that it did not recognise Toyota's logo, in use for decades worldwide, as a "distinctive brand in China" that required protection.

And although under Chinese law, the ruling does not set a precedent, it will be the subject of intensive scrutiny by other overseas carmakers concerned over their intellectual property rights in the republic.

Geely was in triumphal mode. In a statement Monday it averred that its victory would spur the company to invest further in its own designs and logos. Then followed a spurt of politburo-pleasing prose: "The long march of China's national auto industry needs continuous hard work and endeavour from hundreds and thousands of companies like Geely," the company proclaimed.

Toyota said it was studying the judgement, while other foreign carmakers consoled themselves with the upbeat outlook for China's sedan market, up 70% year-on-year so far in 2003; and on target to achieve annual sales of two million units.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff