Few people would confuse a Ford F-150 pickup truck with a Ferrari. But Ford sued Ferrari for trademark infringement when the exotic car maker named its latest Formula 1 race car the F150. Ferrari dismissed Ford’s lawsuit at first but eventually compromised by tweaking the name.
Ford sues to protect the F-150 brand
When Ferrari proudly unveiled the F150, its state-of-the-art Formula 1 race car, Ford said the name was too similar to its F-150 pickup truck, the best selling Ford vehicle for many years. Ford insisted that Ferrari change the name of the car. Ferrari refused, thinking it odd that a sleek, carbon fiber Formula 1 race car could in any way be linked with a 5,000-pound American pickup truck. Ford sued, filing a trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court. Auto industry analysts say that even though the association between the Ford pickup and the Ferrari Formula 1 may be ridiculous, Ford had no choice but to demonstrate vigilance in protecting the value of its brand.
Ferrari’s car named for Italy unification
Ferrari usually names its Formula 1 cars with an “F” followed by the year it competes for the Formula 1 Championship. Last year’s model was designated the F10. If this were any other year, Ferrari’s car would likely be named the F11. Ferrari said it named the car the F150 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, an occasion for Italians comparable to the bicentennial of the U.S. However, Ferrari swallowed its Italian pride and announced Thursday that it would henceforth refer to its 2011 Formula 1 race car as the “Ferrari F150th Italia.”
The Ford-Ferrari feud
The F-150 flap is the latest episode in a contentious 50-year relationship between Ford and Ferrari. In the early 1960s Ford was looking for a shortcut into international racing. Henry Ford II aggressively pursued Ferrari but was rebuffed by company founder Enzo Ferrari. Stung by the rejection, Ford launched a multimillion-dollar effort to build the GT40 race car with the sole objective of beating Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ford eventually beat Ferrari at Le Mans. But today, Ford is known for pickup trucks, and Ferrari is still a car owner’s dream come true.