Toyota Can Use the Lexus Name on New Car Line, Appeals Court Rules

Times Staff Writer

An appellate court has decided that Toyota can use the Lexus name on a new line of luxury cars, the car company said Wednesday.

By a 3-0 vote, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by a federal judge who found that Toyota’s plan to use the name Lexus infringed on the trademark rights of the company that owns Lexis, a computerized legal information service.

Toyota’s U.S. subsidiary, which is headquartered in Torrance, said the ruling by a federal appeals court in New York would allow it to proceed on schedule with national advertising to announce the premier of the Lexus line. The car was first shown at an automobile show in Detroit in January and is expected in showrooms by September. The company will probably start a newspaper campaign in June, Toyota spokeswoman Mindy Weiman-Geller said.

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was against Mead Data Central Inc. of Dayton Ohio, which had argued that Toyota’s Lexus name infringed on its Lexis legal information retrieval service. Mead offers the Lexis service, among others, to law firms, businesses and other organizations that pay fees for access to certain information.


Mead declined comment on the appeals court ruling until its attorneys have read the entire opinion, which was not made available on Wednesday. Toyota said that it is possible the ruling may be appealed, but that it had received no indication of how Mead would respond.

Following Mead’s lawsuit late last year, U. S. District Judge David Edelstein ruled that because of New York state law Toyota would be unable to use the Lexus name, which he said would dilute the effect of Mead’s Lexis name. Later, Toyota was permitted to use the Lexus name at automobile shows in Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago, but was barred from national advertising.

Toyota, plans to sell two models of the Japanese-made Lexus cars at prices ranging from $20,000 to about $35,000. Nissan, another Japanese automobile manufacturer, has also introduced a new line of luxury cars called Infiniti, which will also be in automobile showrooms this fall at prices in the range of the Lexus prices.