Ever since Team Lotus returned to Formula One racing, there had been a simmering dispute between the new team and Group Lotus plc – the company that makes the cars. The dispute turned legal when Group Lotus entered F1 this season with the Renault team. This inevitably accelerated the war of words and eventually the legal teams were called in to resolve some of the issues. In a recent ruling in the High Court in London, Mr Justice Peter Smith gave his judgement in the ongoing legal dispute between Group Lotus plc and “Team Lotus, Tony Fernandes and others” in respect of the right to use the Lotus name in Formula 1.
• Group Lotus has the right to use the name “Lotus” on its own within Formula 1
• Group Lotus is entitled to race in the historic black and gold livery
• 1Malaysia Racing Team (1MRT) was ruled to be in breach of its licence agreement with Group Lotus and was fined
• Trademarks held by Team Lotus Ventures Limited were revoked for non-use
• Group Lotus trademarks were unaffected
• Group Lotus has the right to use the Lotus marque on cars for road use
Group Lotus is concerned that this aspect of the Judgment will cause confusion in the eyes of spectators and the wider public. Accordingly, Group Lotus is seeking leave to appeal so that the right to use the Lotus brand in Formula 1 is clarified once and for all, in the interests of the sport and the fans. Group Lotus and its shareholder Proton Holding Bhd are confident of success on appeal.
In his ruling, the Judge found that: Group Lotus has goodwill associated with the name “Lotus” in Formula 1 and is free to compete in the sport under that name using the Lotus roundel; Group Lotus is entitled to race in F1 using the historic black and gold livery; 1MRT is in breach of the Licence granted to them by Group Lotus to race in F1 under the name Lotus Racing, and has awarded Group Lotus damages in respect of that breach;
Speaking after the judgement, Sarah Price, Head of Legal, Group Lotus plc said: "Group Lotus is pleased that its right to race under the Lotus name in F1 has been upheld and that the Defendants’ attempts to stop that have failed.
Team Lotus Ventures Limited’s trademark registrations in the name of Team Lotus are cancelled as a result of non-use; Group Lotus trademark registrations are unaffected; and Group Lotus has the right to use the Lotus marque on cars for road use.
“The ongoing dispute with Team Lotus and associated companies has been a cause for concern for all at Group Lotus. Despite the detailed judgment, there are issues which still require clarification and we remain committed to obtaining this much needed clarity for the many fans of the Lotus marque – we are extremely grateful for their continued support. The decision to appeal has not been taken lightly.”
The Judge also found that Team Lotus has the right to continue to race in Formula 1 under the name Team Lotus, but the effect of the Judgment is that only Group Lotus can use the name “Lotus” on its own in F1.