FIA facing legal battle over Formula E trademark

After a long drawn out legal battle, a controversial case involving the ABB FIA Formula E championship has been lodged at the European Court of Justice.

On the one side is Formula E’s governing body the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and the other is the British The Green Effort Limited company, with both fighting over the rightful ownership of the Formula E trademark.

It is reported that The Green Effort, has held exclusive ownership rights to the Formula E trademark since 2011 and has used it to organise an international electric karting championship which sees events held on circuits in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland.

Two years later in 2013, the FIA registered a similarly named ‘FIA Formula E Championship’ with the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The FIA then sued the 2011 trademark owners on grounds of invalidity and revocation. While the invalidity claim was rejected early in the proceedings by the EUIPO, it continued the investigation into the revocation assertion for multiple months, eventually deciding against The Green Effort, triggering a process of deleting the Formula E trademark from the EUIPO registry.

As a result, the FIA could have obtained the trademark itself, essentially opening up the possibility to carry out Formula E races without the addition of “FIA” in its name.

However, The Green Effort objected to the decision, taking the case to multiple levels of appeal courts.

Court documents showed that proof of the active use of Green Effort’s Formula E trademark was proved minutes after the expiry of the three-month deadline, which prompted the judge’s decision not to accept the evidence and rule against the British firm.

Had the proof been filed earlier, it is believed that the London-based company could have continued being the sole proprietor of the trademark.

Instead, the decision started a lengthy objection procedure by The Green Effort. After being evaluated by multiple appeal courts across Europe, the case has now even reached the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxemburg, where a final decision is expected in the coming weeks.

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Maung Aye
Maung is a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department. He joined Mackrell Turner Garrett following corporate law positions in London and in a leading regional firm in Essex. Maung read European Legal Studies at Lancaster University and the Università degli Studi di Trento and is a fluent Italian speaker.