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India and Ikea
blog 10 Feb 2016

The Supreme Court in Indonesia prohibits the use of Ikea, by Ikea

The Swedish furniture giant Ikea has recently suffered a great loss in Indonesia. The Indonesian Supreme Court has determined that the trademark IKEA is rightfully registered by another company, PT Ratania, a furniture company from Surabaya. Because of this, the Indonesian company has the sole right to the trademark IKEA.

No use, no rights

The interesting part about this case is that Ikea already registered its trademark in Indonesia, before its first location even opened. In 2013, PT Ratania registrated its own IKEA trademark. The letters would be an acronym of Intan Khatulistiwa Esa Abadi, referring to the rattan industry. During the construction of the first Ikea location, PT Ratania went to court on the basis of Ikea using the trademark IKEA. The case ended up at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that Ikea has an older registration, but has not used its trademark for three years and therefore cannot depend on it anymore. Thus, PT Ratania has a valid trademark on IKEA and can therefore forbid Ikea to use its mark in Indonesia.  

What about Europe?

Europe also maintains a duty of use: when a mark has not been used for five consecutive years, it becomes susceptible to deletion and the right can no longer be invoked. Yet even without registration, well known brands can prevent infringers in the EU taking off with their trademark, on the basis of the Paris Treaty, which is signed by Indonesia. The familiarity of Ikea – of which the catalogue has allegedly been printed more times than the Bible – would make it impossible in Europe, for a third party to win a case such as the Indonesian one.

Moreover, Ikea could have struck back in Europe by appealing on the bad faith of the other furniture business. It is, after all, to be expected that a furniture company in Europe knows about Ikea’s activities that develop concerning the trademark.

Although this case is maybe incomprehensible to Europeans, it is questionable how much the familiarity of Ikea has reached Indonesia. Looking at it the other way around, when big international companies first enter the European market, are not quite familiar and don’t have trademark registrations (anymore), disasters such as the Ikea case can become part of reality.