‘Way back’ in 2007, the local F1 group I’ve been leading here in San Francisco had a website where we announced race events and everything from local car shows to museum visits. With just a few hundred hits/month back then, it wasn’t setting any records for Internet traffic, but it did have one feature that made it visible enough to draw the attention of the powers that be over at FOM and their representatives in an email. We ended up getting the kind of letter you want to get from anyone, let alone Bernie.
I saved that letter, because for our small group, just two years old at that time in San Francisco, it was basically the first acknowledgement that anyone over at FOM had heard of us, let alone communicated with us in any way. Why would they bother with us? At that time, F1 was rarely on the national sports pages, and then just for a final USGP at Indy.
While our website’s logo wasn’t particularly clever or creative, it made use of the stylized ‘F1’ you see everywhere. Today, Twitter users, Facebook pages, Youtube, and fan websites have repurposed, stolen or modified this on a massive scale, and for many businesses, it’s called for a reshuffle in enforcement policy for the use of protected property.
In 2011, businesses have a different set of priorities than they did in 2007, and it raises an interesting question – where does FOM draw that line today with a seemingly unlimited supply of infringement cases, and how does the use or abuse of their property help or hurt their brand?
The same level of legal enforcement today as in 2007 for our group’s use of F1’s logo would seem unsustainable, but relaxing control over it’s use may just help the sport evolve from a centralized structure to one more organic and inclusive, belonging to a shared community of stakeholders. While F1 maintains some of it’s caché in keeping exclusive to a degree, in a growing and competitive marketplace where viral and social media runs wild to build groundswell and awareness around the world, letting fans create their own sense of limited ownership is more a necessity for growth than ever before.
Here’s the letter:
xxxxxxxxx Internal Reference: FOM_NRIDxxxxx
Please quote the above FOM_NRIDxxxxx reference in all communications with us regarding this issue.
Formula One Administration Limited (“FOA”) has the exclusive right to commercially exploit the FIA Formula One World Championship (“the Championship”) including, but not limited to, all moving images, other audio/video content, timing data and results. In addition, FOA’s associated company Formula One Licensing BV (“FOL”) is the owner of numerous trademark applications and registrations throughout the world relating to the Championship, including F1, FORMULA 1 and official logos.
We have noticed that your website, www.sff1.com, is displaying The [F1 logo] [and/or the F1 FORMULA 1 logo] [and/or the FIA FORMULA 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP logo]. Copyright in the logo(s) is vested in FOL and, in addition, the logo is protected by way of numerous trademark registrations throughout the world.
As you have neither sought nor obtained permission from FOA or FOL to use this content, your present use is an infringement of FOA’s and FOL’s rights.
Please immediately cease all such infringements on any and all of your web sites and confirm to us via email that you have done so.
Nothing in this letter is intended or shall be construed to constitute an express or implied waiver of any of FOL’s or FOA’s rights or remedies, including any rights or remedies in respect of infringement not explicitly stated, whether current or in the future, all of which are expressly reserved.
I hereby state that FOA and FOL are the owners of the exclusive rights referenced above and that xxxxxxxx is authorised to act on their behalf with respect to internet monitoring and compliance. On behalf of FOA and FOL I hereby state that I have a good faith belief that use of the content in the manner complained of is not authorised by FOL or FOA, their agents, or the law.