IP Gone Mad – Ford Sues Car Enthusiasts for Copyright Infringement

In a move that is hard to understand, Ford has sued a club of car enthusiasts to prevent them using photographs they took of their own Ford cars, for calendar purposes.

See: http://www.adrants.com/2008/01/ford-slaps-brand-enthusiasts-returns.php for more details.

Now arguably the design of Ford cars is copyright under the architecture extensions. Arguably the designs are trademarks. Arguably Ford are well within their rights, but why?

The calendar cannot possibly have a negative impact on Ford car sales.

I think WIPO should address copyright globally to prevent this type of abuse.

Categories: Copyright, design, famous marks, trademarks, WIPO

4 replies

  1. I can see your point of view, that having Ford cars on anyone’s wall is tantamount to posting an advert there, but they are saying that people should be paying for having a picture of their work of art: a motor car. The question is, do we pay Lamborghini for a picture of their car? Personally, I think we do.

  2. Stupid, sure. Abuse, hmmm questionable. Abuse, I think, would require Ford not really believing they had a (legally) valid claim but using their much deeper pockets to bully the club by the threat of a lawsuit.

    And what do you think WIPO could reasonably do to “address…this type of abuse”. How do you prejudge the matter? Set some arbitrary ratio on assets between the plaintiff and the defendant?

  3. Update – from the Adrants site – The issue has been resolved. Ford Car Communication’s Whitney Drake tells us “Mustang (and other car owners) can take pictures of their cars and make calendars and sell them to whomever they like. They can’t however use Ford logos in the calendar.”

    Does put a whole different spin on it, n’est-pas? Shows why we all need to be careful when information travels at the speed of net.

  4. If the settlement is that one cannot use logos that imply that Ford has some interest, perhaps approving of customizations and the like, but taking and publishing pictures of cards is OK, then yes, I tkink Ford’s threat of a lawsuit re photos of cars is copyright abuse.

    The logos are registered trademarks and Ford can argue that they give them exclusive rights to trade in the protected goods.

    Is there a problem of passing off here? Does the calendar imply Ford’s backing? If not, arguably Ford is abusing their power and the threatened legal action is frivalous.

    Although firmly committed to IP Protection, indeed I make my living out of it, I do think that copyright law has gone berserk. I think the Sonny Bono copyright extension (otherwise known as the Mickey Mouse Law) is an example of corporate America gone wrong. I do not think architecture should be copyright at all.

    I think there is a great deal of liitigation occurring for activities that an International tribunal should declare as being ‘fair use’. There should be a balance that provides compensation for creators but also supports creativity. I think that balance has been lost. I also think that commensurate with ease of publishing and reaching worldwide audiences, copyright protection should be limited to much shorter periods than is currently the case.

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