Honda website
Honda website

SEPTEMBER 16, 2005

Walker on the warpath

Ron Walker, who is a close associate of Bernie Ecclestone, is claiming that A1 GP cannot use the term "Grand Prix" in Australia. Walker is not known for his pursuit of lost causes and it will be interesting to see whether or not the comments made by Walker will actually result in a legal action against A1 Grand Prix. Walker may have authorised such actions but that does not mean that his lawyers or the judges will agree with the argument that "A1 Grand Prix" infringes on the intellectual property rights of the Australian Grand Prix.

It is worth noting that Formula One has yet to secure any major trademarks on Formula One beyond the rather complicated "FIA Formula One World Championship". An attempt in 2000 to get a trademark for Formula One was rejected out of hand by the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the Formula One group has not been back since. This has not stopped the organisation trying to convince others to give up using "Formula One" and "F1". It is worth noting that if one tries to access one ends up with a windscreen-tinting company.

The term "Grand Prix" is even more complicated than F1 because the latter at least dates only from 1950 when the FIA started the World Championship. The term Grand Prix pre-dates the first automobile by 50 years and one would be hard-pressed to argue that Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot's steam vehicle was a device for racing. The first recognised use of Grand Prix was in 1721 when the French Academie des Sciences inaugurated a system of academic "big prizes" for researchers. This played an important role in the development of mathematics and other scientific disciplines.

The lawyers will even have trouble arguing that Grand Prix should be related to motor racing as the first application of the expression in sport was in 1805 when there was a horse race in Paris called the Grand Prix de Paris. The term Grand Prix was used regularly in horse racing from the middle of the nineteenth century, notably at Pau and in Paris where there has been a Grand Prix since 1863.

The first use of the phrase "Grand Prix" in relation to automobiles was not until 1901 when the town of Pau borrowed the title of its horse race for a series of motoring challenges.

It was then adopted by the Automobile Club de France in 1906 for the first Grand Prix race at Le Mans.