Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Quick trademark question ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Quick trademark question
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: questionsly-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 28 Dec 2005 09:08 PST
Expires: 27 Jan 2006 09:08 PST
Question ID: 610510
If I were selling a car cover that was specifically sized to fit
certain cars, say a Toyota Camry, could I write on the packaging of my
product that it fits a Toyota Camry or could Toyota sue me for using
their trademark without permission?

Clarification of Question by questionsly-ga on 28 Dec 2005 09:10 PST
Please also let me know "in general" if this applies to all product
packaging designed to fit over products with federally registered
Subject: Re: Quick trademark question
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 28 Dec 2005 11:31 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

The answers to your questions are "Yes" and "Yes"

Yes, you can advertise that the cover fits a Toyota Camry, and...

Yes, Toyota can sue you (but they probably wouldn't).

Trademark law in the US is specifically designed to allow limited use
of trademarks -- sometimes known as "fair use" -- to provide certain
public benefits, such as describing products for sale.

How, after all, could a consumer purchase a cover for their Toyota
Camry if the words "Toyota Camry" couldn't be used in advertisments
for the car cover, except by Toyota itself?  Not very good for
encouraging competition!

The actual language of the law says:

...a defense to a claim of trademark infringement exists where...the
use of the [trademark] a use, otherwise than as a mark...which is
descriptive of and used fairly and in good faith only to describe the
goods or services of such party, or their geographic origin...

In plain English, as long as you do not say anything to disparage
Toyota, or to lead to any confusion about your product (such as,
implying that it's made by, or endorsed by, Toyota), then you should
be on pretty safe ground.

Notice, however, the language of the law, and its emphasis on "a
defense to a claim of trademark infringement...".

The reality of the situation is that a trademark holder can sue just
about anyone they feel like who uses their trademark, if they get
their knickers in a twist.  The law is not designed to prevent suits,
so much as to discourage them by making clear that fair use is a
reasonable defense.

Put another way...Toyota could sue you if they felt like it.  They
could sue me as well, since I've used their trademarked name all over
this answer.

However, it strikes me (from my non-legal-professional point of view)
as very unlikely that they would undertake such a lawsuit, given the
trivial nature of the use, and the strong probability that the suit
would quickly be dismissed by the courts.

In sum, here are the important take-away messages:

--you can make reference to Toyota Camry (or other car names) in
describing the car covers

--Toyota can, in theory, sue, but it's very unlikely they would do so,
and unlikely they would prevail in such a suit.

--I am not a lawyer, and Google Answers is no substitute for
professional legal advice (see disclaimer, below), so take all this
with an appropriate grain or two of salt.

You can read more about Trademarks and Fair Use at these links:
Trademark Fair Use
Fair Use

Trademarks may also be used by a nonowner nominatively?to refer to the
actual trademarked product or its source. In addition to protecting
product criticism and analysis, U.S. law actually encourages
nominative usage by competitors in the form of comparative
advertising....Both of these exceptions require that the mark not be
used by the nonowner in a way that would be likely to confuse
consumers about the source of their (or the trademark owner's)
product. Generally this translates into the requirement, similar to
that in fair use under copyright, that no more of the trademark is
used than is necessary for the legitimate purpose.

I trust this information fully answers your question.

However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need.  If there's anything more I can do for you, just post a Request
for Clarification, and I'm happy to assist you further.


search strategy -- Answer is based on my knowledge of trademark law
and bookmarked sites on Fair Use.
questionsly-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy