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Question regarding vehicle logo trademark laws

03-19-2023, 06:40 AM
My question involves the vehicle logos and names we see on various vehicle accessories like wheel covers, bras, floor mats, and the like.

I recently needed a set of wheel covers for my old Toyota Camry, but when I saw the price on the original OEM covers with the Toyota logo pressed into the center of the cap, I just decided to go with a set of generic ones I found at a local used hubcap place (yep, we actually have one of them here in town!). The guy there told me that the original covers were so expensive because they are OEM and the logo is trademarked, and they can only be manufactured by a company that is licensed by Toyota to make them, which is understandable.

But then the guy offered me some stickers with the Toyota logo on them that I could put on my new generic covers, to kinda sorta make them look a bit more Toyota-ish, I guess. He had large rolls of those stickers with all of the different vehicle brand logos on them. Is that considered a trademark violation?

If I want some floor mat carpets for my Tundra pickup or my Honda Accord that have the word "Tundra" or "Accord" stitched into them, I can't find these at my local discount auto parts place - I have to go to the dealership or order them online from an authorized seller of OEM parts and accessories. The same thing goes for a front bra for my Accord. Unless I want to pay big $$ to the dealership or to an authorized reseller online, I have to use an aftermarket bra like a Lebra, and it will say Lebra across the front, not Accord.

However, at my local discount auto parts store I can buy as many rubber floor mats and mud flaps as I want with brand names like Chevy and Ford emblazoned across them, and they cost a fraction of what I'd pay at a dealership. Do these companies just pay a licensing fee to Ford and Chevy and then make as many of those things as they can sell? And if so, why don't we see this same sort of thing with other vehicle accessories like bras and wheel covers being sold in discount auto parts stores for a fraction of what we have to pay at the dealership?

I'm just wondering if anyone can briefly explain to me the rules surrounding vehicle parts branding, or maybe steer me to a resource where I can learn more about this. Many thanks for any guidance on this!

03-19-2023, 09:09 AM
My initial guess is that the market is quite a bit larger for Ford and Chevy items than for Toyota, Honda, etc. so it is worth their expense to purchase a license to use the logo. Or possibly Ford and Chevy/GM charge less to license their logos than other manufacturers. But that's purely a guess.

Most large companies will have a "Brand Central" or "Brand Marketing" group with e-mail addresses and possibly even an entire site dedicated to high level explanations of what's allowed and what's not, along with how to request use. You could start by reaching out to one or more of the companies. You might find someone who's some excited that you want to understand the legal way to do it that they will take the time to respond with something meaningful.

Out of curiosity I was just looking at Ford's site (https://corporate.ford.com/about/brands/licensing.html), and while there wasn't a lot of detail there, I did find it interesting they had a short paragraph on who to contact if you're looking for a limited, non-production use of their brand.


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