By on February 10, 2011

You think only China has a total disregard for intellectual property? Ford filed a trademark infringement suit on Wednesday against a foreign carmaker. The only thing this carmaker has in common with China is their love for the red color. Ford sued Ferrari for blatantly stealing the name of the world’s best selling vehicle, the F-150.

Ferrari named its 2011 Formula 1 racing car the “F150.” And Ferrari’s F150 logo bears striking resemblance to the one on Ford’s F-150 pickup truck, Ford said in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Ford alleges that “Ferrari has misappropriated the F-150 trademark in naming its new racing vehicle the ‘F150’ in order to capitalize on and profit from the substantial goodwill that Ford has developed in the F-150 trademark.”

Yes, Ford says that Ferrari’s Formula 1 car poses as one of their trucks. The cornerstone of all trademark litigation is customer confusion and the resulting dilution of the trademark. To win, Ford needs to make the case that customers are duped into thinking that this Formula 1 car has something to do with a F-150 pickup.

According to Reuters, “Ford is asking the court to bar Ferrari from using the name. The automaker is also seeking unspecified damages, including damages of $100,000 under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.”

Fiat owns 85 percent stake in Ferrari. Fiat also is involved with Ford’s crosstown colleagues at Chrysler. According to the complaint, Ford and Ferrari have a “legendary history as rivals in auto racing.”

The cybersquatting stems from a website Ferrari set up:

There are two defenses against trademark infringement: Fair use and parody. Ferrari will most likely go the fair use route. “The choice of name stems from Ferrari’s desire to pay tribute to this year’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy,” Ferrari says in a statement on the website. F1 + 150 = F150, capisce?

If that doesn’t work, they can always try parody.  “Your honor, our drivers say, it drives like a truck. So we called it F150. Isn’t that funny?”

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31 Comments on “This Is A Ford Truck...”

  • avatar

    Who didn’t see this coming?  When the initial story hit, I was surprised it didn’t mention lawyers at the gate.

  • avatar

    In order to maintain your trademark you must actively defend it.  “Use it or loose it”.

    • 0 avatar

      What Bowler300 said is true. As stupid as this sounds, if Ford doesn’t defend “F150” from Ferrari this year, next year Chevy could come out with an “F150” truck, and when Ford tries to stop them from calling it that, they can actually use “but you didn’t stop Ferrari from using it” as a legal argument.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 both comments.
      Ford probably expects to lose this case, and they shouldn’t care much about the outcome since the Ferrari is clearly not competing with their truck in reality.  However, they are obligated to try, for the reasons that Foolish posited.

  • avatar

    If 20 bags of mulch fit in the back of the Ferrari and it had a lift kit I could see their point. Not this. Nor is there a King Ranch version of the F1 machine and it doesn’t even appear to be for sale to the general market.
    Ford should have more issues with Toyota calling it’s truck a T-100.

    • 0 avatar

      By the time the T-100 came out, the Ford F-100 was a faint memory to most people.   But, the Tundra was going to be called the T-150 until the Ford legal team intervened.

  • avatar

    Greedy Ford at it again.
    Although if that was a Ford truck…it may actually be desirable…

  • avatar

    Yep. Ford has to defend their trademark, then they could lose it.
    Ferrari says F1+150 = F150, why not make it F1-150 and change the font of the logo.

  • avatar

    Can numbers be trademarked?
    If there can be no confusion between trademarked, service marked etc products can infringement be claimed and ruled for?
    Anybody can sue anybody/thing but it doesn’t mean the suit has merit and will be won.
    Not a lawyer within the shanty and relying upon past readings of a very complex legal system designed to maximize wealth creation for those earning their wealth via that system that is to never be confused even remotely with a justice system.
    Advocating jury nullification when appropriate.
    Never forget that, especially with an innocent desperate person, if pushed too far well…………..
    Even a mouse will stand up against the tiger and fight to the death.
    Haven’t seen a “Last Act of Defiance” for awhile.

    • 0 avatar

      Vehicle names (whether a number designation, city, or animal) can be registered as a trademark. Mazda couldn’t just call their models “3” or “5” as it would have been infringement on BMWs naming, so they’re registered as Mazda3 and Mazda5, and titled as Mazda Mazda3… you get the idea.

      It’s often why manufactures will trademark hundreds of names which they may never use.

      This type of lawsuit is very common among corporations. Ford has a right to protect a registered trademark, whether the Ferrari has any similiarities or not.

    • 0 avatar

      A few years ago in Canada BMW had beef with Infiniti , when later was using just “M” without number to advertise Infiniti M35.

  • avatar

    My brother has an F-150, but it doesn’t look anything like that.

  • avatar

    If Ferrari really wants to use F150, I’m sure they’ll find a way to do so in the end.

    It may have been easier just to dig even deeper through Italian history and use Roman numerals.

    Thus their new racer would be the Ferrari FCL (not FLCL, mind you) and Ford wouldn’t be in a tizzy.

  • avatar

    I am a patent attorney, but I do trademarks as well.  My gut reaction is that their probably isn’t a likelihood of confusion here, as no one cross shops Fords with Ferraris or pickups with F1 race cars.  However, the trademark dilution claim stands a better chance of making it to a jury.  Although most would recognize that Ferrari is not trying to sell their products on Ford’s market goodwill (snicker) it would likely dilute the strength of “F150” and allow others makers to refer to their vehicles by the same mark.

    Punchline is that the damages for trademark dilution (rather than infringement) is injunctive relief only.  All Ferrari will have to do is change the name of the car; they won’t have to pay a dime to Ford.

  • avatar

    Yeah Bowler300 and some other have already pointed out the reasons behind this, but nonetheless…Ferrari and Ford do have a legendary history of competition in auto racing at Le Mans of course. Maybe they just saw an oppertunity to remind people of that in a press release.

    I also like to reference to Alain Prost calling the 1991 Ferrari F1 car a truck and subsequently being fired for it. 

  • avatar

    “world’s best selling vehicle”?  Didn’t they only sell around 400k of them last year?  That would seem to make F-Series ~20th. 

  • avatar

    Ferrari should have bought rights to use the name GT-40 and gone with that.  That would be hilarious.

  • avatar
    The Wedding DJ

    Breaking news:
    It’s now F150th Italia.

  • avatar

    I had wondered from the start why Ferrari would want to use a name which would result in those doing Google image searches finding dozens of pages of trucks…

  • avatar

    If they called it the Ferrari Corolla
    that could convince people it can be a good time and last a long time too.
    is not is for good time but not necessary  long time as prancing Horse purported to be.

  • avatar

    Ferrari should have bought rights to use the name GT-40 and gone with that.
    why Enzo do that? is similar to ask Germans to speak proudly of treaty of Versailles.
    Only took them 59 yrs to pay it off. That was circa 1989!
    His Excellency Henry said ” Nothing beats the inches”
    Or ask a Toyota name a new car “Enola Gay”

  • avatar

    Of course Ford didn’t want to be associated with vehicles that don’t last even a 100,000 miles!

  • avatar

    This is nothing new. Back in the early ’60s Porsche had originally intended to call the then-new 911 the Porsche 901. But Peugeot intervened, claiming the numeral-zero-numeral sequence was theirs and theirs alone. Porsche relented.

  • avatar

    Reminds of me of the Lexis vs. Lexus dispute.

  • avatar

    FWIW, my guess is that Ford would have let it pass had Ferrari not used a logo that’s very close to the F-150 logo. They’re nearly identical. Except for the dash, the only difference is that the F has a rounded corner and the 5 has a sharp one in the Ferrari version. Other than that, the letter shapes are pretty much the same, indeed creating the possibility of confusion.
    I’m quite sure that if I came out with a car called the Prancing Stallion, and created a logo that used the Ferro Rosso font to spell Stallion, Ferrari’s lawyers would be on me like red on a race car. How much the more so if I named the car F-458

  • avatar

    F-150?  So that’s another name for a Ford 1/2-ton?

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