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Ferrari Abandons F150 Nameplate

Yields to Ford in trademark lawsuit.

by on Feb.11, 2011

It's now the "Ferrari F150th Italia."

Ferrari officials may be ready to battle it out on the track, but they’ve apparently decided they’d rather switch than fight in the courtroom.

The Italian supercar maker has announced it will no longer call its new Formula 1 race car the F150, a name the company said was meant to celebrate the 150th year of Italy’s union.  Instead, it will be referred to only as the Ferrari F150th Italia in all forms of communication, the maker announced.

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The move came shortly after Ford’s legal team fired off a salvo at the company it has frequently battled on the track.  Ford filed suit, in U.S. District Court in Detroit, accusing Ferrari of trademark infringement for lifting the name of the well-known Ford F-150 pickup.  The U.S. maker also listed cybersquatting on the complaint, a reference to the website.

Though the Italian automaker questioned how a high-performance race car could be confused with a big pickup truck, experts in trademark law stress that Ford had to move aggressively to protect its well-known nameplate.  Permitting the widespread use of a trademark can result in the courts eventually deciding that it has become part of the public domain, which has happened with such one-time trademarks as escalator and elevator.  Chrysler routinely takes action when the name Jeep is used as a generic term for an SUV.

Ferrari responded to the Ford suit by stating, “Ferrari believes that its own contender in the forthcoming F1 championship cannot be confused with other types of commercially available vehicle of any sort whatsoever, nor can it give the impression that there is a link to another brand of road-going vehicle.”

Nonetheless, the statement said that, “Despite this and to further prove it is acting in good faith…Ferrari has decided to ensure that in all areas of operation, the abbreviated version will be replaced at all times with the full version, Ferrari F150th Italia.”

Ford has moved to protect the F-150 nameplate before.  It blocked Toyota’s initial plans to use the T-150 designation for what eventually became the Tundra full-size pickup.

Toyota, however, won a separate battle with the publishers of the Lexis/Nexis database, who had sought to prevent the Japanese maker from using the Lexus name for its then-new line of luxury cars.

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