When Ferrari announced that its new Formula 1 car was to be called the F150, many car-savvy folk commented on the fact that Ford has a long-lived US-market model of the same name, give or take a strategically placed hyphen. Today’s news that Ford is taking legal action against Ferrari – citing trademark infringement and claiming punitive damages under anti-cybersquatting legislation – was therefore almost inevitable.
This situation is not without precedent in F1 and the car industry as a whole. 20 years ago Porsche got uppity when Leyton House gave its new Ilmor-engined chassis the designation CG911.
Looking further back, Ford itself ended up at the wrong end of a lawsuit when it launched the Sierra in 1982. A kit car manufacturer called Dutton had been marketing an incredibly ugly soft-roader (ironically enough, based on Ford Escort mechanicals) called the Sierra for three years.
It would have been a classic David vs Goliath victory, save for the fact that neither side quite got what they wanted, although Dutton was awarded costs. Neither managed to prevent the other from using the name, on the basis – said the judge in the case – that kit cars occupied an entirely different automotive category to production cars. Perhaps there will be a similar outcome in the Ford vs Ferrari tangle?
Edit: Ferrari has acted quickly to defuse the issue and tweaked the nomenclature of its car. It also issued a statement which said:
On the subject of the name of the new Ferrari Formula 1 car, the Maranello company wishes to point out that it has sent a letter of reply to Ford, underlining the fact that the F150 designation (used as the abbreviated version of the complete name, which is Ferrari F150th Italia) never has, nor ever will be used as the name of a commercially available product – indeed there will definitely not be a production run of single-seaters.