IP Australia argues the oversized Lexus spindle grille is not distinctive enough for brand to ‘own’ it

lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille

A determined bid to have the distinctive oversized Lexus spindle grille trademarked in Australia has failed.

IP Australia, the federal agency that administers intellectual property rights and legislation relating to patents, ruled against the application by Lexus’ parent Toyota Motor Company in a decision handed down May 31 after a hearing in March.

The application was first submitted in January 2002 and was rejected by IP Australia three times between May 2020 and November 2021 before a hearing was requested where oral evidence was given by a Toyota representative.

Toyota argued at the hearing the grille should be trademarked because it is an invented shape that does not confer a functional benefit on the vehicle, as amply demonstrated on models such as the new 2022 Lexus LX.

lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
Lexus LX

The car-maker said the spindle grille is used as a badge of origin and is recognised and associated with Lexus.

However, the IP Australia Hearing Officer found the grille did not distinguish Lexus models from the cars of other brands and that there were many vehicle grilles that were similar.

The Hearing Officer judged the grille served both functional and visual purposes and also that it did not stand alone as a trademark.

The Hearing Officer judged any reputation the shape may have gathered was impossible to separate from the stylised L, or the word Lexus, either of which this shape had always been used in combination with.

lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
Lexus UX

“Any person or company can apply for registration of a trademark,” an IP Australia spokesperson told carsales. “They do not need specific grounds under which to apply.

“There are, however, grounds for rejecting some of those applications, which is what has happened here. The ground that was used to reject this application relates to whether what has been applied for can be used to tell apart the goods of a particular trader from the goods of other traders.

“For example, a person should not easily be allowed a trademark for ‘apple’ if they are a fruit grower, while for a computer manufacturer, ‘apple’ would be okay.”

The spindle grille was first shown on the 2011 Lexus LF-Gh concept, which previewed the incoming GS sedan.  It has since flowed through the brand’s model range.

lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille
2011 Lexus LF-Gh hybrid concept

Intriguingly, a new design language that abandons the spindle grille was previewed when Toyota revealed a slew of new electric vehicles it plans to roll out by 2030, including several Lexus models.

Most notable among them was the Lexus Electrified Sport and Sedan which had very sleek noses. SUVs, however, retained a graphic reminiscent of the spindle grille’s shape.

If it wishes to continue its campaign to trademark the spindle grille, Toyota will now have to take its case to the Federal Court.

carsales has sought comment on the matter from Lexus Australia.

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Keyword: Lexus fails in bid to trademark spindle grille

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