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The fight over the Lotus name

Written by Jean-Michel Omanga on 20 October 2010

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Background:

Team Lotus famously raced in Formula 1 events between 1958 and 1994, achieving great success. Financial difficulties followed and the team has not raced since. A dispute has now arisen over the right to the grid under the name Team Lotus. The business of making and racing race cars under the name Team Lotus, which the legendary Colin Chapman kick-started in the 1949's is currently owned by team Lotus Ventures. The very same Colin Chapman however started another business in the 1950's manufacturing other cars under the name Lotus. That business is owned by Group Lotus. Both sides benefited from the scheme: Team Lotus from the expertise and the engineering business from the reflected glory. They were specifically created as separate entities, to avoid one company causing financial difficulties for the other.

The legal question:

Does group Lotus own the heritage it so proudly claims?

The world-famous Team Lotus dropped out of F1 in 1994, after 36 years and 79 grand-prix wins. But 15 years later, in time for the 2010 season, the Team Lotus revived the team as Lotus racing, thanks to a deal with Group Lotus (before the actual Group Lotus chief executive joined the company) allowing them of using the name. After the single 2010 season, Group Lotus withdrew the licence. Lotus racing launched an action in the High Court in London seeking confirmation that it can use the name for the next seasons.

While the row grinds through the courts, industry- watchers claim the two sides should do a deal. Both sides have a great deal to lose with the High Court rule to come. Group Lotus could lose the best marketing tool in their challenge to Ferrari and Team Lotus would build a brand without a product to sell.

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