Car manufacturer Toyota and Qantas offshoot budget airline Jetstar have gone head to head in a legal battle over star-jumps. More specifically, they are fighting it out to prove who should own the right to trademark figures of star jumps with straight legs.
Basically, a Trade Mark is granted by IP Australia and protects a brand, by helping to differentiate the goods and services of one trader from another. A wide variety of things can be trademarked including any letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, or in this case a movement.
Toyota have used the familiar jumps as part of their ‘Oh, What A Feeling!’ campaign for approximately 30 years, and Jetstar have used the straight-legged star jumps in their marketing since the airline’s launch in 2004.
Starting earlier this year, Toyota has lodged applications to trademark star jumps and has so far successfully registered 18 versions. Unfortunately for them, 12 applications have faced opposition from Jetstar as they feature straight-legged jumps.
Not one to be outdone, Jetstar have made their own applications, seeking to trademark four versions of the troublesome star jump, however two have been opposed by Toyota. The defensive move in making their own applications is a way of strengthening their position which is beneficial in their discussions with Toyota. Interestingly, Jetstar are seeking only to trademark the straight-legged jumps, and are unconcerned with their bent-knee counterpart according to a Jetstar spokeswoman.
In a bid to resolve the dispute, the parties have entered into confidential negotiations which will hopefully prove to be a cheaper and more effective option than fighting it out in the courts.
Over the past few years, there have been quite a number of substantial trade mark battles involving high profile companies. In 2009, a long running dispute between Cadbury and Darrell Lea over the use of the colour purple settled out of court, and there has also been a case between Telstra and Phone Directories Company regarding misleading or deceptive conduct and passing off in relation to the use of the colour yellow.
Although it may not seem like a big deal, in the world of branding, differentiating between star jumps has high stakes. Trademarks are a tool that works to prevent any confusion in the marketplace and help consumers to make a connection with a brand. It is this intangible goodwill that consumers associate with a brand that companies oftentimes spend years building up and can be their greatest asset, which makes it easier to understand why protecting it, through trademarks, is important.
Thanks to Brigitte Wise for this interesting article.