Formula One could be forced to change its new logo amid trade mark dispute

Formula One’s (F1) recently redesigned logo might have to be dropped amid concerns that it bears a striking resemblance to a trade mark already registered by stationary giant 3M, it has emerged.

The news comes after F1 was taken over by US investment firm Liberty Media in January 2017 for a sum of £6 billion, and redesigned its iconic 23-year-old logo shortly afterwards to enable Liberty to leave its legacy on the sport.

The new, much simpler logo was first unveiled at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, consisting of a curved stripe crossed over by a white line.

However, when F1 submitted a trade mark application to protect the new logo with the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) shortly afterwards, this was met with obstruction from 3M – who lodged their opposition to the application on 22 May this year.

The office equipment supplier, which is well-known for its Post-it Notes and Scotch tape, claimed that the design of F1’s new logo was too similar to its own, which had been registered as a pan-European trade mark back in June 2017 – five months before F1’s application.

Shortly afterwards, Liberty Media received correspondence from the EUIPO confirming that the opposition had been “found admissible” in principle due to this registration.

The EUIPO confirmed that “the adversarial part of the opposition proceedings will begin on 27/08/2018.”

“The time limit for you to submit your observations in reply expires on 26/12/2018,” it added.

Over the years, 3M’s design has appeared on products ranging from knee straps and ankle supports to compression tights, the brand says.

It might have been this overlapping of goods and services that prompted the opposition from 3M, due to the fact that F1 has recently launched a line of clothing featuring its new logo. And this is thought to have further exacerbated tensions between the two parties. 3M’s opposition states that, because of the similarity in goods, “there exists a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public”.

Reports suggest that both sides could be on the brink of a lengthy legal battle unless F1 moves to bring opposition proceedings to an end by trying to negotiate a private settlement.

Either way, it is thought that F1 will be forced to drop the new design, which might not be so bad for the sports franchise, as this logo is not the only one submitted for registration, and the other two it applied for have not been opposed (although are not that much more popular!).



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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.