FEBRUARY 12, 2002

Formula One buys Formula 1.com

FORMULA 1.com has been a thorn in the side of Formula One Management for the last few years, the website arguing that "F1" is a generic term and that as such anyone can use it. Formula 1.com had previously acquired the domain www.f1.com and redirected enquiries to its own website. In 2000 FOM went to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the arbitration body for disputes over domain names, complaining that it owned the right to the name but the complaint was rejected by the arbitrator, a Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Cambridge University. The arbitrator concluded that F1 and Formula 1 are generic and descriptive terms.

As a result of that ruling Formula One Licensing filed a lawsuit with the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Formula 1.com then filed eight counterclaims - six antitrust counterclaims and two state law claims - alleging unfair competition "tortious interferences". The case was due to come to court last month but it now seems, although no-one will confirm the situation, that FOM has reached an out of court settlement with Formula 1.com and that the website has been acquired and will be used as the official website for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship in the future.

The Formula 1.com website is expected to be relaunched at some point in the future.

Thus the question of who, if anyone, owns the trademarks to "Formula One", "Formula 1" and "F1" and in which countries remains unresolved. There are several hundred websites using some form of the name, notably www.formulaone.com, which sells paint treatment for cars in the United States of America.

The issue of Formula One/1 is only relevant until 2007 unless there in an agreement between the F1 teams and Kirch, the owner of FOM, as the car manufacturers are planning to start their own World Championship. The company which has been set up to organize this series is called GPWC, which presumably stands for "Grand Prix World Championship".

Grand Prix racing dates back to 1901 when the term was first applied to an automobile race, prior to that "Grand Prix" had been used for horse racing events at Pau in France.