When Ferrari proudly unveiled the F150, its state-of-the-art Formula 1 race car, Ford said the name was too similar to its F-150 pickup truck, the best selling Ford vehicle for many years. Ford insisted that Ferrari change the name of the car. Ferrari refused, thinking it was odd that a sleek, carbon fiber Formula 1 race car could in any way be linked with a 5,000-pound American pickup truck. Ford sued, filing a trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court. However, even though confusion was unlikely between the Ford pickup and the Ferrari Formula 1 and in many ways any potential association could be considered ridiculous, Ford had no choice but to demonstrate vigilance in protecting the value of its brand.
In its complaint Ford alleged that Ferrari, based in Modena, Italy, adopted the Ford trademark âin naming its new racing vehicle the âF150â in order to capitalize on and profit from the substantial goodwill that Ford has developed,â and that âFerrari's F150 logo bears striking resemblance to the one on Ford's F-150 pickup truck.â
Ford asked the court to bar Ferrari from using the name. The automaker also sought unspecified damages, including damages of $100,000 under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
Ferrari usually names its Formula 1 cars with an âFâ followed by the year it competes for the Formula 1 Championship. Last yearâs model was designated the F10. If this were any other year, Ferrariâs car would likely be named the F11. Ferrari said it named the car the F150 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Italyâs unification, an occasion for Italians comparable to the bicentennial of the U.S. However, Ferrari swallowed its Italian pride and announced February 10, 2011, that it would henceforth refer to its 2011 Formula 1 race car as the âFerrari F150th Italia.â
Fiat SpA has an 85 percent stake in Ferrari, and management control of Chrysler Group LLC, in which it has a 25 percent stake. Consequently, the F-150 flap is the latest episode in a contentious 50-year relationship between Ford and Ferrari. In the early 1960s Ford was looking for a shortcut into international racing. Henry Ford II aggressively pursued Ferrari but was rebuffed by company founder Enzo Ferrari. Stung by the rejection, Ford launched a multimillion-dollar effort to build the GT40 race car with the sole objective of beating Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ford eventually beat Ferrari at Le Mans. But today, Ford is known for pickup trucks, and Ferrari is still a car ownerâs dream come true.
The case is Ford Motor Co. v. Ferrari S.P.A., 4:11-cv- 10518, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan.