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It seems that most people think that Tony Fernandes has a clear cut case to use the “TEAM LOTUS” name in F1 since buying Team Lotus Ventures Ltd from David Hunt. A High Court judge will decide on the matter in the near future, but here is why I think it is anything but an open and shut case.

Team Lotus Ventures Ltd (TLV) hold the trademark 2297413B “TEAM LOTUS” for “Class 35: Advertising services in Class 35, all relating to Formula One motor racing; but not including any such services relating to pre-recorded tapes”.

Among the many trademarks held by Group Lotus (GL) is E2708196 “LOTUS” for “Class 35: Advertising services, in particular the service of renting advertising space on the exterior surface of racing vehicles.” Note that, unlike some of the other trademarks held by GL, this does NOT exclude Formula 1.

Both of these trademarks are legitimate and long established. One of the questions the judge must ask himself is this – “Can TLV exercise their right to use the “TEAM LOTUS” trademark in F1 without simultaneously infringing the rights of GL over the “LOTUS” trademark in F1?” I believe the answer is a clear cut “No” as the word “LOTUS” is part of the phrase “TEAM LOTUS”.

Effectively, what Tony Fernandes has bought is the right to stop anyone else using “TEAM LOTUS” in F1, rather than the right to use it himself.

To put this in historical perspective, Colin Chapman’s “Team Lotus” was only able to use that name with the tacit co-operation of the owners of the “Lotus” trademark for F1.

Peter Collins & Peter Wright’s “Team Lotus” was only able to use that name with the tacit co-operation of the owners of the “Lotus” trademark in F1.

David Hunt’s licencee “Pacific Team Lotus” was only able to use that name with the tacit co-operation of the owners of the “Lotus” trademark for F1.

You get the idea. As long as both parties thought they were pursuing a common cause, they got on with it and ignored the built-in paradox in the trademarks. Now that the 2 owners of the respective trademarks are at odds with each other, the paradox must be faced.

The logical result would be that no-one can use “TEAM LOTUS” in F1 (GL because it would breach TLV’s “TEAM LOTUS” trademark TLV because it would breach GL’s “LOTUS” trademark and anyone else because it would breach both) UNLESS they sit round a table and come to a mutually beneficial agreement. It’s time to kiss and make up, guys, otherwise everyone loses, even the winner.

John McGregor.

You can follow John on Twitter @racingpuma

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