By on February 12, 2011

In the brouhaha over Ferrari’s alleged trademark violation, Ferrari did the smart thing and surrendered. Ferrari withdrew the “F150” name for its new Formula One race car. Ford had brought suit in federal court, alleging 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.”

Ferrari had maintained that the name had nothing to do whatsoever with Ford’s bestselling truck, saying that “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.”

Faced by an army of Ford lawyers, Ferrari went into reverse. According to IANS/AKI  (via Sify), Ferrari will now call the racer “Ferrari F150th Italia.”

Nevertheless, Ferrari continues to profess its innocence: “Ferrari retains that there can be no way to confuse the one-seater…or even think that there would be a link with another brand,” Ferrari said in a statement. “It seems really difficult to understand what has been expressed by Ford.”

Let’s see whether Ford’s legal pit bulls will let go, or whether they will lay claim to the number 150, especially in an f-word. Stranger things have happened.

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33 Comments on “Ford Wins Over Ferrari In Formula One...”

  • avatar

    Makes me think of the Lexis-Lexus lawsuit.  Toyota obviously won that case…

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Ford threatened a suit over Toyota naming the successor to the T100 pickup the T150, Toyota retaliated with vs. the Lincoln LS6 and LS8. The T150 became the Tundra, and the Lincolns simply LS.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Ford didn’t win, attorneys did.
    I’m telling you, if the lawyers of the early 20th century were anything like the life-sucking leeches they are today, there would be no automobile industry at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Leeches? You should read some early automotive history and see how various investors and backers of the early car companies acted. One could say that General Motors exists today because Ben Briscoe wanted to cash out by selling Buick to Flint buggy makers.

  • avatar

    So F150 is a NO, but the 500 is ok? The Cinquecento even has a 500 on the dashboard.

    Is it because the Ford was named “Five Hundred”, that its ok for Fiat to use “500”.

    I’mahh soh comfused <= Italian accent there

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      I don’t think it’s possible to trademark a plain ordinary number. Numbers and letters change the situation.

    • 0 avatar

      BrianP, actually the Porsche 911 was going to be the 901, but Peugeot claimed they owned the exclusive right (in France)  to 3 digit car names with a zero in the middle. So Porsche changed it to the 911.

    • 0 avatar

      ANYTHING is possible in the wild world of trademarks. I once filed a (not overly creative) trademark for a manufacturer of first aid kits. The mark had a red cross in it.
      The filing was opposed. Not by the Red Cross as one may think. By Johnson & Johnson. The mark didn’t use script, it didn’t mention a johnson or two. The difference could not have been bigger. J&J objected to the red color in the cross. Jeez.
      I didn’t want to fight and simply (and successfully) refiled the mark in black and white.
      Isolated case? Deutsche Telekom, the former German post office and parent to T-Mobile, claims rights to the color magenta. As in CMYK ….

    • 0 avatar

      Bertel, the Red Cross is a special case and it’s not just a trademark issue, but a Geneva Conventions issue.
      J&J was one of the companies and/or organizations that had used a red cross as a symbol for first aid and was thus grandfathered and allowed to continue its for this and only this purpose.  Otherwise, the use of the Red Cross is prohibited except to ICRC/IFRC and military medical personnel as a matter of international humanitarian law.
      The world over from Asia to Africa to the Americas understands the Red Cross as a protective symbol.  For those of us who have worked under it’s banner in conflict areas, it’s better than kevlar.
      Anyway, the color issue is important because any other color is not covered by the GCs so orange, green, blue, purple, etc are perfectly acceptable.
      T-Mobile, that’s a little nuts.

    • 0 avatar

      When the International Red Cross gives the symbol of Israel’s Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) official recognition I’ll echo your hosannas. Unfortunately, the IRC has a problem with Jewish symbols. Oddly, the Red Crescent of the Muslim countries has had official recognition for decades.
      The only way that the IRC allowed the MDA to join was when the IRC recognized the “red crystal” as a third official symbol (along with the Christian cross and the Muslim crescent). While the American Red Cross has consistently lobbied the IRC to let Israel join, it’s clear, even after the 2006 admission of the MDA after the MDA agreed to use the red diamond symbol (with a star in the middle), that IRC will never, as long as the Muslim countries oppose it, allow an affiliate to officially display a Jewish symbol.
      Kind of makes one go, hmmm, doesn’t it?
      FWIW, I also don’t necessarily like the Humane Society. My father, o’b’m’, was a veterinarian who had to compete for spay and neuter business with the Humane Society, a tax-exempt organization.

    • 0 avatar

      I understand that you understand this to be a religious issue, but it’s not.  In fact, I think you fundamentally misunderstand the nature, organization and mission to which I am referring and thus, your enmity is a little misdirected.
      First, there is no such organization as an “International Red Cross.”  There are two related but independent organizations – the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which deals primarily with war/conflict and humanarian issues within those contexts.  The ICRC really only uses one symbol, that of the Red Cross, including and within Islamic majority countries and conflict areas, including places such as Afghanistan, the Sudan and Iraq.
      There is also the International Federation of Red Cross (and Red Crescent) Societies, which is more or less the association of national societies (including the American Red Cross.)  These societies deal with a great deal more than the fundamental protection mission of the ICRC, including disaster relief.  The nature of the IFRC’s work is such that Red Cross and Crescent are not protection symbols so much as identifiers for their localized – and in massive natural disaster response, international – causes.  This is a different issue from that of why the RC symbol itself is a restricted GC symbol.
      Yours is mostly an issue with the latter group, which for better or for worse, is an association.  Yours is a legitimate complaint which touches on a number of issues.  None of these issues are particularly simple and as such, have no simple resolutions that will in any way satisfy the majority, much less all stakeholders.
      For what it’s worth, I’ve never seen Israelis who have been there be anything but supportive of the mission. That said, you have a right to support or not support any given organization as you see fit.

    • 0 avatar

      @Signal 11: The things you learn on TTAC. Now it makes sense. The protest did not include that they have the rights to a red cross. They just claimed red. My high priced U.S, trademark lawyer did not have your background and said: “They are contesting the mark because it uses red. They write their name in red. This is ridiculous. Contest it.”
      BS, I said. File the black & white.

  • avatar

    I don’t know about you, but I always think Formula One whenever I see a Ford pick-up truck.  I do, however, have a harder time thinking LMP whenever I encounter an old Pontiac.  And don’t get me started about the Chrysler Sebring.

  • avatar

    Ford is still annoyed that Enzo wouldn’t sell himself to the cigar-chomping Henry II in 1965?

    I share Ferrari’s bewilderment at Ford’s reaction. A gargantuan American pickup truck slathered in chrome being confused with any Ferrari seems incredibly unlikely, even to a casual observer.

  • avatar

    After this legal action, I almost expected Ferrari to announce the race car would now be known as the “Ram.”

  • avatar

    On the surface it’s silly but — especially in the States — trademark law is weird. If not defended, Ford could lose a more important battle down the road. Can you imagine a pickup made in China with the F150 moniker that can be exported to America because Ferrari had a vehicle with the same name and Ford let that one go?

  • avatar

    Speaking of lawsuits, what happened between Infiniti and Audi when the Q7 came out? Infiniti was arguing they had the QX4 and Q45, and they owned the Q-space.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that Ford didn’t go after Formula One racing back in the day when their half-ton pickup was the F-1. Come to think of it though, that was in 1948 to 1952.

    …and by the same token, business in western Washington, particularly on the Olympic peninsula, routinely get hassled by lawyers for the Olympic Games for having the word “Olympic” in their names.

  • avatar

    Shame man! Ford is probably just feeling all insecure. It is a bit like the class room bully having a tantrum.

  • avatar

    Yeah, like, when I heard “F 150” and saw Ferrari’s new F1 race car, I like, totally, thought of a Ford pick-up truck….. (ó.ò)
    Classic case of:

    IMHO, of course.

  • avatar
    Jeff Semenak

    How about the Chevy Beretta ?
    “General Motors was sued by Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta for trademark infringement over the naming of the Beretta. The suit was settled out-of-court in 1989; GM and Beretta exchanged symbolic gifts: a Beretta GTU coupe and a pair of Beretta shotguns. GM donated US$500,000 to a Beretta-sponsored charity which was also affiliated with the GM Cancer Research Foundation.”


  • avatar

    As a consumer protectionist I can only hail this decision. Imagine, what could go wrong in cases that someone orders a F150 via phone, as he you usually does, and then get a Ferrari instead or vice verse.
    Unaware customers are safe now. Praise the legal staff at Ford!
    P.S.  Does anyone remember the legal reasoning why Microsoft was not successful in trademarking the word “Word”?

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      For most of their products, Microsoft relies on something called “common law trademark,” which is sort of an automatic granting of trademark if you can successfully argue that most people would consider the association obvious. Office is certainly an example of that, although I’m not sure Word would be, except maybe in print when capitalized.

  • avatar

    Ford has been burned this way before-They lost the rights to the Futura name to Pep Boys a few years ago because they were asleep at the switch-The Fusion was originally going to be called Futura until they got the word.

  • avatar

    Hyundai went through this before too, hence when the Elantra was introduced, it was called the Lantra in Europe.  Apparently, Lotus thought folks would be confused between a sporty 2-door roadster a dowdy compact 4-door sedan.
    Ironically, it continued even when Lotus stopped producing them.  Instead, it was Kia that was complaining.

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