Use it or lose it: IKEA stripped of its trade mark in Indonesia

Businesses have to use their trade marks in order to keep them. A recent case showed that even the world’s biggest companies aren’t immune from this.

Businesses are made up of a range of assets that are the focus of a broad selection of different regulations. On top of this, they have to manage those that are both tangible and intangible, as there some whose value isn't easy to measure. 

Assets such as brands and trademarks are immensely valuable to a business, as they allow them to promote their products through instantly recognisable colours and logos. However, in the case of the trade marks that make up this branding content, it's up to organisations themselves to follow up on any misuses. If a company is found to not be protecting its trademark, it can risk losing these rights altogether. 

IKEA fails to protect its trade mark

Put simply, trade mark law operates on the mantra of "use it or lose it". Rather than there being strict timelines as with copyright for different forms of media, trade mark protection is predicated on an ongoing investment of interest from its respective owner. 

This is the case for businesses of all sizes, and organisations can't assume they'll get a free pass simply because they're a multinational corporation, as IKEA recently found out. The Swedish furniture giant lost its trade mark in Indonesia to the company PT Ratania Khatulistiwa, which plans to use the acronym for its Intan Khatulistiwa Esa Abadi set of stores which will also sell similar products. 

While IKEA had registered its trade mark in Indonesia in the past, as recently as 2010 according to The Guardian, PT Ratania Khatulistiwa successfully argued that they hadn't used the trade mark commercially in three years. In accordance with Indonesian copyright law, they lost the rights to its ownership. 

What does this mean for Australian businesses?

Although the IKEA case provides a strong warning for all organisations, it's not an exact replica of the type of situation they may face in Australia. The "use it or lose it" mentality is still in place here, but businesses have a longer timeframe to act in regards to breaches of this type of intellectual property

In Australia, trade marks last for 10 years after their initial registration, but still need to be renewed on each occasion this time period passes. It's important businesses continue to use any trade marks they own, however, as any person can make an application for non-use, which could see trade marks fully removed from the register or limited in their use. 

To find out more about intellectual property law in Australia, contact the experts at Alder IP.