Honda F1 website

MARCH 12, 2004

A new source of income for FOM

For the last five years Formula One Management has been trying quietly to secure the intellectual property rights to the Formula 1 and F1 trademarks. In May 2000 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ruled that the granting of a trademark requires "proof of considerable use before the sign will acquire sufficient distinctiveness to justify its registration" and ruled that FOM had not shown that its reputation was "so widely established as to give them the right to claim that any commercial use of it which is in some way connected with auto racing will be taken to imply a connection with them".

The latest issue of Haymarket Publishing's F1 Racing magazine, which went on sale in Britain today, features a small but hugely important notice, which states that "Formula One, Formula 1 and F1 are trademarks of Formula One Licencing BV, a Formula One Group company, and are used under licence"

This probably helps to explain why Ecclestone closed down his own F1 Magazine last month, leaving the field clear for its rival Haymarket's F1 Racing. This may seem like a good deal for Haymarket but it is now inevitable that FOM will go back to WIPO with a much stronger case and should now be able to claim the trademarks desired as F1 Racing magazine has a large number of editions in countries across the world. If FOM is granted those trademarks by WIPO it will then be able to move against anyone who is using F1 in relation to motor sport and perhaps in other activities as well. A garage company in France, for example, uses F1 as its branding with an illustration of a racing car. In the future, if the trademarks are granted, that firm would almost certainly have to pay for the right to use the F1 mark.

This will have a particularly big impact in publishing where there are large number of websites and publications which use F1 in their titles. If the trademarks are granted they will have to pay for a licence, providing the possibility of a great deal more income for the Formula One group after an initial period when FOM will probably have some substantial legal bills.

The big question now is how long a licence Haymarket Publishing has acquired to use the F1 trademark and whether or not the deal covers every edition of the F1 Racing around the world.