Formula 1 could face legal battle over its new logo

F1’s logo, designed by Wieden + Kennedy last year, could face a copyright dispute because of its similarity to that of a compression tights brand owned by manufacturing giant 3M.

The Formula 1 logo launched in November 2017, designed by Wieden + Kennedy

Formula 1 (F1) could soon be embroiled in a legal dispute after it was discovered its new logo bears a resemblance to that of a flight sock and tights brand.

The new F1 logo was revealed in November last year, and designed by advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy.

The logo, which is made up of slanted “F” and “1” symbols constructed out of three panels, was designed to look like the form of a race car, according to the design consultancy.

Replaced Carter Wong’s logo from 1987

The rebrand received criticism when it launched, with some arguing that it had replaced a “loved and iconic logo”, was “not legible” and was “change for change’s sake”, according to Design Week readers.

It replaced the previous Carter Wong-designed logo, launched in 1987, which featured a slanted F and speed marks next to it, creating a “1” shape in the negative space between the two.

But Wieden + Kennedy’s executive creative director, Richard Turley, said of the new logo at the time of launch that it “embodied the core forces of F1 racing – speed, attack and control”, and that it looked “to the future” but was inspired by a history of motorsport graphics.

F1 logo on left, Futuro logo on right. Image by Michael Johnson, courtesy of Creative Review

3M “looking into this matter further”

US-based company 3M – which also manufactures Post-It notes – is now alleging that the F1 logo infringes on their copyright, given the similarity to the branding on the company’s range of flight compression tights from its sub-brand Futuro.

Like the F1 logo, the Futuro tights brand features a forward-slanting “F” constructed out of two rectangular, curved panels.

3M has used this “F” symbol on its Futuro range for the past year and filed a US trademark application for the logo in February 2017, according to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The trademark was officially registered in June.

F1 allegedly did not lodge the application for its logo until November, according to The Telegraph. A spokeperson at 3M told the newspaper that the company had not yet had any discussions about the logo with F1, but would be “looking into this matter further”.

Is there likelihood of confusion?

Dids Macdonald, founder at organisation Anti-Copying in Design (ACID), says that if it can be proved that there is “likelihood of confusion” between the two brands, this could be grounds for a legal dispute.

“Certainly when you look at the two logos together, on the face of it, there are similarities.

“There could be a clash of brand identity if F1 is planning to create a range of clothing for example, which could cause confusion.”

Companies should check for existing trademarks in early stages

She adds that companies and branding consultancies should check for existing, registered trademarks or logos before committing to the launch of a new one, to avoid “drawn-out and expensive legal battles”.

“Sophisticated searches are now available,” she says. “It is always wise to check with a global brand or trademark expert in the first stages, who can advise before a new logo is launched, which will safeguard against public spats like this.”

She adds: “The most positive next step in this case would be to mediate rather than litigate, and for a neutral, third party to get the parties to talk, negotiate and settle. Is a long legal battle really good for either brand?”

3M has not yet confirmed if it will seek legal action against F1.

Hide Comments (14)Show Comments (14)
  • Logan January 19, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Should have added the furturo logo here too, I googled it and virtually the same but without the 1!!

    • Sarah Dawood January 19, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      Hi Logan,

      We wanted to include the Futuro logo but unfortunately we don’t have permission to use it currently. We’ve asked for this but haven’t received it yet. Images are subject to copyright and we often need permission to use them. If we get the okay, then we will update the story with the image.

      Design Week team

  • David Busbridge January 21, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Googled it too – extremely similar. The question is, what does that shape represent in the heady world of compression tights? Someones knee as they leap over a fence, or just an F. I suspect the latter :-0

  • Chris January 21, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    Would be good a link to another page or pdf with the other logo.

    • Sarah Dawood January 22, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Hi Chris,

      We’ve now been able to include an image of the Futuro logo within the piece.

      Design Week team

  • Debs January 22, 2018 at 8:55 am

    Definitely should be challenged. Way too similar. With all the money that Formula 1 have, I’m amazed they didn’t do a search before launching this one.

    • Henry C. Walker January 24, 2018 at 6:15 am

      Right! W&K fauxpas!

    • Henry C. Walker January 24, 2018 at 10:01 pm

      Absolutly right! W&K fauxpas!

    • Henry C. Walker January 24, 2018 at 10:06 pm

      Absolutly right! W&K fauxpas! With all the money I‘d sue Turley.

  • Richard Ward January 22, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Not a good logo, in any respect ! Firstly very difficult to reproduce down small, as the spacing between the shapes are to ‘thin’. plus it lacks any character of any sort.

  • Harold January 22, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    “We wanted to include the Futuro logo but unfortunately we don’t have permission to use it currently.” Being a news organ, wouldn’t this fall under fair use and not require permission?

    • Sarah Dawood January 22, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Hi Harold,

      Fair use is something we stick to, yes. Unfortunately, the image that other news organisations were using would not fall under this as it was a photograph of a piece of packaging with the logo on, as opposed to an image of the logo. The right thing to do in this instance is to gain permission from the owner of that photo.

      We have now included an image, which does fall under fair use.

      Design Week team

  • Gary January 24, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Any confusion? None whatsoever, take out the legal team and there wouldn’t be an issue, but if someone can make money from it, then look there’s confusion.

  • Nigel Bromley January 29, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    If only context had a bearing upon any possible confusion and or litigation.

    Next time I’m browsing in the Chemist for a compression support product, I’m not mentally thinking about the world of F1, I’m trying to evaluate a product based upon it’s brand (3M) and price and alternative products.

    I’m not convinced that I’d end up being so confused that I wouldn’t make a purchase.

    Maybe that’s why I’m not practicing law !

  • Post a comment

Latest articles