• Jun 1, 2006

In an effort to better protect the Mustang name, Ford Motor Company has taken to prosecuting companies with names incorporating a Ford trademark, including Mustang and nicknames like Stang and Pony. According to Mustang Monthly, companies that violate the rules are being presented with a letter directing the company to transfer internet domain names containing "Mustang" to Ford, as well as instructions to stop using Mustang in the company name. The letter also reportedly requests that all marketing materials, including brochures, banners, business cards, etc. be turned over to Ford so that they can be destroyed, and also directs the company to cut Ford a check for $5,000 in damages. Companies choosing not to comply could end up in a legal battle with Ford costing in excess of $100,000. Seems a little excessive, but it's within Ford's right and responsibility to protect its trademarks, right?

But what about the collateral damage? What of the companies that will undergo financial harm by halting advertising until the issue is resolved, or those small shops that don't have the marketing budget to reprint all of its materials? And what about Ford's efforts over the years to encourage aftermarket shops to produce product for the Mustang, thereby increasing the Mustang's attractiveness to car buffs looking to customize.

So what's the answer, dear readers? Is Ford going overboard, or is the company rightly protecting its property?

Thanks to Matt for the tip.

[Source: Mustang Monthly]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 38 Comments
      gbh
      • 8 Years Ago
      As has been noted, it's one thing if some company produces goods or services that use your corporate/product name/likeness to make money circumventing your company.

      'Tis a whole 'nother animal when you go after parts purveyors, fan sites, fan mags, that kinda stuff. It's just sad. Short-term economics, it only hurts the company in the long-run.

      Steve, while I agree with your analysis of the Cessna hypothetical, what happens in the real world is way different. For those of you who are too young to remember, there was an infringement suit over the use of the name Beretta...

      (Dig through your old Car and Driver collection for the article Beretta vs. Beretta, it was entertaining.)

      Believe it or not, one can still control the important parts without hurting the fans who really help make your company. Porsche is even worse about this. Really.


      • 8 Years Ago
      Ford must have gotten this great idea from Mazda with the "cease and desist" orders. Mazda NA pulled this same crap about a year ago and cracked down on any and all "profiteers" of the Miata name. Even down to the little guy who made name badges for all of the Miata clubs in the US. Nothing like keeping the priorities in line! Way to go Big Blue!

      Just make the damn vehicles better will ya?

      Proud owner of an '00 Expedition :) And yes I tow with the beast, I mean truck :)
      • 8 Years Ago
      To #12: I think the scope is to target "baby businesses" that cater to Mustang owners but without being Motorcraft or other authorized parts distributors. Like Calfornia Mustang (parts supplier), Stangparts.com, Mustang Depot, www.fomoco.com, etc. None of these companies have a direct affiliation to Ford, but they do provide Mustang fans access to new peroformance parts, or replacement parts for restorations.

      I think, these firms do encroach on the Mustang name, hence why I think there should be some form of licensing to allow the firms to continue operation without a name change. I do not feel Ford demanding these companies to change their moniker is in Ford's best interest. These firms aren't peddling pirated DVDs or porno. Rather, they're just simple companies that give local customers access to parts.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hey did you also know that the law firm HPA that Ford rewards for taking down domain names is also sending Cease and Desist letters to its own Ford dealers now!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Who makes Mustang?.... Ford
      Would we ever confuse that....Nope

      So whats the use...None



      I find it amazing that when someone is basically giving your product free advertising you ask them to stop.
      Maybe this is a reason I can buy a share of ford stock for the same price as a value meal at Mcdonalds.
      Backwards thinking!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Back in the late 1980's as Toyota was preparing to introduce the Lexus brand, they became embroiled in a trademark squabble with the Lexis-Nexis service, which provides legal and business information to subscribers via computer. Lexis-Nexis claimed that Lexus would create confusion given its similar pronunciation even though the spelling was slightly different.
      I don't know if the dispute ever made it to court, but cooler heads finally prevailed and everyone realized that Lexus and Lexis provided such completely different products that no reasonable person could confuse them.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Number 11 by JR is RIGHT ON...End of Story...No More Questions...The rest of you fools sound like a bunch of non-educated blogers without a clue or anything to do so you input your thoughts here...oh, thats what this is for...well,go ahead and read some more then, but your wasting your time...Also, does anybody wanna buy some cheap seat covers, just contact me at Chevy-Cheap-Covers.com for some real good deals on Cheepy stuff!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Mustang Survival has been making PFD and survival suits for 40 years. I agree that Ford needs to cast a narrow net with this, or they will quickly start bumping into legitimate companies outside of their automotive branding.
      http://www.mustangsurvival.com
      George Booth
      • 8 Years Ago
      From the point of view of trademark law Ford may well be in the right, but for the reasons enumerated above this has to stand as their latest really dumb decision. I wonder how far they'll take their case. Will the owners of the website Mustangsmustangs.com have to come up with an alternative (it's a site dedicated to the P-51)?

      Come to think of it, I recall that no less than Lee Iacocca claimed that the name of the car was inspired by the famous World War Two fighter plane. On that basis I suppose North American Aviation/Rockwell International/Boeing could sue the bozos at Ford for copyright infringement!

      When, oh when, will the shareholders and the Board of Bystanders at Ford get rid of the clueless Bill Word Jr. and the rest of the current management?
      • 8 Years Ago
      This is a very heated debate, FordMuscle has conducted a poll and supplied this information to Ford today:
      You can vote in the poll:
      http://www.fordmuscle.com/

      or comment as well:
      http://www.fordmuscle.com/blog/help-convince-ford/112105
      • 8 Years Ago
      It all depends on how broadly they apply this. If they keep the focus within the automotive space (including accessories, parts, makers of unauthorized merchandise like t-shirts, hats, etc.) and any other instances where a reasonable consumer would be presented with confusion, they are well within their rights and would almost certainly prevail in court.

      However, if they cast a wide net and start going after businesses that clearly have nothing to do with auotmotive and no reasonable person would see as either a competitor or receiving an endorsement from Ford, then they cross the line from legitimate protection of a very valuable trademark to bullying. Going after a hypothetical Mustang Overnight Delivery would be legit (implies a use of the vehicle), but going after Mustang Fried Chicken wouldn't. Trademark law is pretty clear that while you're given a very wide berth in defending your mark where legitimate confusion is created or endorsement implied, it's also pretty clear that you can't claim control over unrelated things.

      Unfortunately, the OP provides zero insight into how aggressively and broadly Ford is going to pursue this. Which means that some of the questions are not only unanswerable but pretty much unwarranted. If a company is forced to stop selling unauthorized Mustang-logo t-shirts and hats, whatever "collateral damage" they suffer is entirely warranted, as they own zero rights to profit off of another company's mark. Different story if they take a run at the hypothetical Mustang Friend Chicken I mentioned earlier.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I concur, the Mustang and its popularity exist primarly due to the passion of its buyers. Many of their customers also happen to start their own business to share their joy derived from the Mustang with others. The fact that Ford would aim to sever this unbinding relationship is beyond me.

      Ford should offer licensing at a nominal fee to the companies that violate the misuse of "Mustang" or "Ford" if they wish to protect their copyright. Granted, if Ford does abosolutely nothing, they run the risk of the term "Mustang" leaping into common usage and into the public domain... but I don't recall anyone ever referring to all 2-door coupes as a mustangs. Maybe Ford wants to be the only Pony Car in the upcoming Domestic V8 RWD war?
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