Top speed’s nice, but what’s it haul?

February 10, 2011

A seemingly ridiculous lawsuit was all over the radio this morning. Ford is suing Ferrari for naming its new Formula One racecar the F-150, the same name as Ford’s flagship line of pickup trucks.

Apparently, Ford was concerned that folks would confuse the two vehicles and that — get this — the 240-mph Italian racing machine would damage its tough, bare-knuckle truck brand.

Cue the jokes. And indict the American judiciary system for allowing such a frivolous lawsuit.

But wait a minute.

Ford is absolutely, 100% right. This isn’t about confusing the two vehicles. This is about trademark protection. Ford has to step up and file this suit.

When companies go to court to claim copyright infringement, they have to prove that they've protected their trademark against all challenges. If Ford lets Ferrari slide, it’s going to be harder to keep the next guy away.

Bottom line… while there may not be much of a chance of someone accidentally buying a Ferrari speedster when actually in the market for a pickup, Ford weakens future cases if it doesn’t sue. What happens if it lets Ferrari share its brand and GMC decides to call its next pickup the F-150? By then, the brand is diluted.

Apparently, Ferrari has seen the error of its ways. Less than 48 hours after the suit was filed, Ferrari announced that it will always refer to its racecar as the Ferrari F150 Italia. (The name commemorates the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.) It’s not clear if this will appease Ford.

So score one for the brand guys at Ford. And I’ll take my Ferrari with the optional mud flaps. And a gun-rack.

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