Court rules Lotus have right to use name “Team Lotus”

2011 F1 season

Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Monaco, 2011

Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Monaco, 2011

Lotus have won the right to continue using the name ‘Team Lotus’ in F1.

Justice Peter Smith dismissed Group Lotus’s claim to the Team Lotus name and roundel design.

He also ruled that Lotus’s use of the name ‘Team Lotus’ does not infringe Group Lotus’s trademarks in the name Lotus.

Their use of the name had been contested by Group Lotus, who make Lotus road cars and sponsor the Renault F1 team.

Last year Lotus used the name ‘Lotus Racing’ under license from Group Lotus, until it was withdrawn. Lotus bought the rights to the name ‘Team Lotus’ from David Hunt, who had acquired them when the original team collapsed at the end of 1994.

Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes wrote on Twitter: “We won. I’m over the moon. Team Lotus belongs to us. Our chassis name stays Lotus. No one can use the chassis name. We are the only Lotus. Team Lotus”

Group Lotus said they would appeal the decision. However they described the verdict as a “win on key issues” in a statement.

Sarah Price, head of legal at Group Lotus, said: “Group Lotus is pleased that its right to race under the Lotus name in F1 has been upheld and that the Defendants? attempts to stop that have failed.

“The on-going dispute with Team Lotus and associated companies has been a cause for concern for all at Group Lotus. Despite the detailed judgment there are issues which still require clarification and we remain committed to obtaining this much needed clarity for the many fans of the Lotus marque – we are extremely grateful for their continued support. The decision to appeal has not been taken lightly.”

The statement noted: “The judge also found that Team Lotus has the right to continue to race in Formula 1 under the name Team Lotus but the effect of the judgement is that only Group Lotus can use the name ??Lotus?? on its own in F1.

“Group Lotus is concerned that this aspect of the judgement will cause confusion in the eyes of spectators and the wider public. Accordingly, Group Lotus is seeking leave to appeal so that the right to use the Lotus brand in Formula 1 is clarified once and for all in the interests of the sport and the fans. Group Lotus and its shareholder Proton Holding Bhd are confident of success on appeal.”

Update: Here is the verdict in full.

Lotus naming rights row

Browse all articles on the Lotus naming rights row

Image ?? Team Lotus

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182 comments on Court rules Lotus have right to use name “Team Lotus”

  1. DaveW said on 27th May 2011, 16:21

    Haven’t slogged through the whole opinion yet, but seems uncommonly readable, a good summary of parts of F1 history, and has some good zingers. For example:

    Addressing Chapman’s view that Lotus cars should become more mainstream, every-day road cars:
    “The reference to women car drivers might not be quite so apposite in 2011 and is difficult to square with the Lotus Elan and Diana Rigg.” Major burn, your honor.

    In the end, this was just a ******* match between two big egos with money to spare. Sometimes, these commercial cases are simply a duels—in modern days, we use attorneys rather than “seconds.” Two business people operating in the same sphere want to score a win and to show their backers/investors that they are ready to use brass knuckles against a competitor, however pound-foolish a litigation may be versus settlement.

    Then again in this case, maybe an actual duel would have been better. In which case, if I were Fernandez, I would have selected Sutil as my second (too soon?).

  2. the edge said on 27th May 2011, 16:45

    far too many lotus’…i’m way confused, good job I don’t really give a dam

    the green ones are pretty cool…why do the black ones not wanna be called renault any more? after all…the lotus brand is tainted with them dodgy proton people whilst the renault name just has to contend with being ”french n’ cheerful” (an evil yes, but far less of an evil surely)

  3. Veggen (@veggen) said on 27th May 2011, 16:49

    Hopefully this ruling will make both parties realise the best solution is a settlement where the team lotus name and a sizeable amount of money changes hands, leading to one lotus team and one caterham team. This will clear the confusion for the fans and allow both sides able to exit this mess with their heads held high.

  4. moose said on 27th May 2011, 17:44

    team lotus statement 2

    Team Lotus and Group Lotus plc – Clarification:

    Team Lotus is very pleased with the judgment in the dispute with Group Lotus and does not intend to appeal any of the key findings. As Group Lotus has already announced its intention to appeal the Judge’s decision on the headline argument in this case it is clear they do not feel they have won. There are a number of points that are interesting to note in the Judge’s findings which invalidate any claim of victory by Group Lotus in the main cause of this action:

    – The Judge ruled that Team Lotus owns the separate goodwill in the “Team Lotus” name and roundel and we cannot be prevented by Group Lotus from using either of them in relation to Formula 1 racing. This was their headline argument in this case and the primary objective of Group Lotus was to stop us racing under the Team Lotus name. On this point they have lost.

    – Until 1985 Group Lotus and Team Lotus had their own separate pools of goodwill in respect of the two separate businesses – the road car operation as one entity and the Formula 1 team as another. The claim by Group Lotus to have always owned the goodwill in Team Lotus failed.

    – Having clearly established that there were two separate pools of goodwill the judgement also establishes that the goodwill in the Team Lotus name and roundel has continued and still survives – it has not been eliminated by non-use. The claim by Group Lotus on that point has failed.

    – It has also been established that there is no confusing similarity between Team Lotus and Lotus. As there is independent goodwill in the mark Team Lotus it is not confusingly similar to Lotus. Group Lotus cannot stop Team Lotus racing under the name we own, so again, Group Lotus has failed in their main cause of action.

    – Although goodwill in the “Team Lotus” name and mark subsists, our trade marks for the Team Lotus name and roundel have been revoked for non use between 2003 and 2008. This however has no impact upon our ability to continue to use the “Team Lotus” trade marks, and indeed to re-register them.

    – The only point that Group Lotus won on, and could therefore claim any sort of victory, was the point that the Judge himself referred to in paragraph three of his judgment as “less important”. The Judge found in their favour that Team Lotus had breached the licence agreement by producing merchandising without pre-approval and that Group Lotus was therefore entitled to terminate. This has no bearing whatsoever on the key question as to whether Team Lotus is allowed to continue to race under the Team Lotus name.

  5. Fixy (@fixy) said on 27th May 2011, 17:44

    In my pictures’ folders, I still have separate ones:
    Lotus Racing (2010-)
    Team Lotus (1958-1994)
    Renault F1 (1977-)

  6. PJA (@pja) said on 27th May 2011, 17:56

    My ideal judgement would have been that no could use the Lotus name in any form again in F1 but that was never going to happen.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if their any some deals going on behind the scenes now so only one of them are called Lotus and it may result in Group Lotus paying Fernandes a large amount to buy the name and Fernandes using the Caterham name.

  7. I think my understanding of this judgment conflicts with the first line of this article: “Lotus have won the right to continue using the name ‘Team Lotus’ in F1.”

    My understanding is that they should no longer be referred to as Lotus, but Team Lotus. They have won in the sense that they can call themselves “Team Lotus”, but legally, when referring to Lotus, we are talking about “Group Lotus”.

    What a mess.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 31st May 2011, 6:17

      No, that is not entirely the point. They are Team Lotus, but it is common and not deemed confusing if Media refer to them like that for reason of “economy”, i.e. faster commmenting or fitting it into the headline.

      And Group Lotus stays GL/Group Lotus, to avoid conflicting with its subsidiary, Lotus Cars. The Renault team is not Lotus but Renault with a Lotus sponsorship (bringing only the Lotus badge and Money, no further involvement).

  8. Nick said on 27th May 2011, 18:17

    Shouldn’t the plural of Lotus be Loti ?

  9. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 27th May 2011, 18:17

    The judge also found that Team Lotus has the right to continue to race in Formula 1 under the name Team Lotus but the effect of the judgement is that only Group Lotus can use the name “Lotus” on its own in F1.

    Group Lotus is concerned that this aspect of the judgement will cause confusion in the eyes of spectators and the wider public.


    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 31st May 2011, 6:21

      I read through the whole of it. Seems the judge thinks the same about that, its nice to see how he makes clear it would have been better to sit down and agree on something.

      And as for who is the “real” Lotus, he states that in effect these teams will have to go on track and show what they have got.

  10. Lotus the Bug wants to get in on this action…

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 27th May 2011, 19:11

    I honestly think this is about as fair a judgement as you could get. Unfortunately for Group Lotus the ‘key issues’ they won weren’t really the ‘key issues’ for Team Lotus.

  12. Paul A (@paul-a) said on 27th May 2011, 21:39

    Not a bad judgement – his honour even said he regretted that the two opponents couldn’t sort it out on the racetrack rather than in a law court.

    So now we have British Racing Green Lotuses (I owned a BRG Elan) and JPS coloured Renaults (I owned to JPS Europas and still smoke – natural sun-cured tobacco that I hand roll in rice paper), so, like the judge, look forward to them getting the final public opinion on the race track. I just hope the commentators can keep it simple: Lotus or Renault (and Renault should be proud of their heritage in motor racing in general and F1 in particular.)

    I find it ironic that we have four drivers – a Finn, a German, an Italian and a Russian – plus two Malaysian “owners” all fighting over CABC British heritage. The drivers are all too young to have even met Colin and I don’t see any suggestions that the “owners” claim any personal knowledge. I knew him pretty well and would suggest – with his near paranoia for keeping his activities totally compartmentalized in case the racing went belly up – that he must be grinning in his grave.

    Let’s look back at the track record in a few years – may the “best man” win …

    • Paul A (@paul-a) said on 27th May 2011, 22:01

      Forgot to add my thanks to David Hunt who kept the “Team Lotus” name alive exactly as Chapman would have wished. Never met him, but knew his brother (James) who once in the paddock (touring cars at Charade in the late 1960s) called my girlfriend’s Yorkshire terrier “un rat éléctrique à piles” – a battery powered rat – after he tripped over the animal and fell into a puddle. The F1 world probably owes David much gratitude.

      • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 28th May 2011, 1:29

        Indeed so. Unfortunately, it seems he could be the biggest loser in this case. His license was terminated due to lack of use, and it was awarded to Team Lotus as part of a separate application. Team Lotus probably already made some form of payment to him, but this means TL are no longer obligated to pay him any further.

        “un rat éléctrique à piles” – sounds like James Hunt, all right. :D

  13. Calum said on 27th May 2011, 22:17

    I’m hardly a casual F1 fan, but I will admit the 5 Live commentary on the Monaco practice sessions were quite confusing in regards to Lotus. P1 had Bruno Senna calling his team Lotus, P2 had Karun Chandok calling his team Lotus, God help the casual fan in those circumstances!

  14. Ian said on 27th May 2011, 22:28

    So where was Bernie when teams were applying for places? Was he not aware that 2 Lotus brands could have confused fans?
    It was easy enough to identify which Schumacher was which as they were usually some distance apart on the track, but 2 similar-sounding teams is plain daft.
    Could next year see a MACLaren team along with Mclaren?

  15. Circuit zolder said on 27th May 2011, 22:42

    Lol Lotus always makes me think of this.

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