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.
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.