Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Toyota, Jetstar in star-jumps war

In the high-stakes world of branding, it seems there is a big difference between star jumps.

A long-running dispute between Qantas' budget offshoot, Jetstar, and Toyota is now focused on who can prove they should own the right to trademark figures of star jumps with straight legs.

While Jetstar is kicking up its heels about straight-legged star jumps, it has not got in the way of Toyota successfully registering several versions of star jumps with knees bent.

The Japanese car maker has used jumps in ads featuring its ''Oh, What a Feeling!'' slogan for about 30 years.


In a bid to protect its branding, Toyota began lodging applications early last year to trademark star jumps. So far, Toyota has successfully registered 18 versions of star jumps as trademarks but it has run into opposition from Jetstar to 12 applications because they feature straight-legged jumps. 

Those opposed by Jetstar include figures of a boy leaping into the air and forming a star jump. In a defensive move, the budget airline has made its own applications to trademark four versions of the star jumps – two of which have been opposed by the car maker.

A Jetstar spokeswoman said it wanted to trademark the straight-legged star jumps, which have been used in the airline's marketing since it was launched in 2004.

''We are not concerned about the bent-knee star jumps,'' she said.

The case over who owns a ''movement'' has gripped the world of trademarks. Jetstar and Toyota suspended their dispute before IP Australia, which governs trademarks, and entered confidential negotiations earlier this year about who the star jumps belong to.

Battles between companies over trademarks have become more focused in recent years. Cadbury and Darrell Lea settled out of court in 2009 a long-running dispute that the retailer had infringed the British chocolate maker's trademark by using the colour purple in stores, packaging and on staff uniforms.

Cadbury eventually registered the colour purple but allowed Darrell Lea to use a different purple for its stores.

Intellectual property lawyer Jane Brown said Jetstar's trademark applications appeared to be an attempt to bolster its position in the negotiations with Toyota.

''This is more about wanting to firm up its position in the opposition process by filing their own trademarks,'' she said. ''To say that a star jump itself is a trademark is a difficult position to defend. Both are trying to claim it.''

Entering negotiations is a cheaper option for the companies than fighting it out in the courts, and can also fast-track the case before the trademark body. 

''It is in both companies' interests to settle quickly – otherwise they are going to be in the courts,'' Ms Brown said. But she said the dispute could still drag on for a long time.

Toyota declined to answer questions about why it had opposed two Jetstar trademark applications, or other details of the long-running dispute.

''We expect to come to a mutual agreement some time in the near future,'' a spokeswoman said.

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