Originally posted by Laura DeGraff
One comment regarding the use of the Toyoda name and family crest in regards to the trademarking issue:
Actually the name and crest can be trademarked by the AAA for use in their organization. A trademark is based upon not simply a name or design, but how that name or design is used in conjunction with specific goods and services offered by the owner. Since the Toyoda name and crest have been used for years as identifiers for the AAA in conjunction with martial arts education, they are valid representations of the organization. Generally, being able to prove usage over a lengthy period of time is enough to constitute ownership of a design or name. The Toyoda name and crest have for years been identifiers of the AAA ...
From Trademard law:
"What are common law rights?
Federal registration is not required to establish rights in a trademark. Common law rights arise from actual use of a mark. Generally, the first to either use a mark in commerce or file an intent to use application with the Patent and Trademark Office has the ultimate right to use and registration. However, there are many benefits of federal trademark registration."
Although I do not know how easy, or if it permitted, to trademark legally a symbol of a plant, or to trademark a family-crest that is widespread in Japan, as Chris alluded to. This link further shows that just in this family, over 25% of the families of just one particular family in Japan uses it.... But I am not a lawyer....