The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

Ferrari in SUV Name Battle

07-02-2020

This article by Hannah Roberts first appeared in the Financial Times.

A legal battle has broken out between Ferrari and a tiny sports charity over the Italian word for thoroughbred.

One of Italy’s most famous brands has launched proceedings against the not-for-profit Purosangue Foundation, claiming that it has not made sufficient commercial use of the name to warrant exclusivity.

Purosangue means literally “pure blood” and was chosen by the charity to reflect its campaign work against doping in sports. It is also the name of Ferrari’s first SUV, which is due to go on sale in 2022.

The foundation said it registered the word as a trademark for clothing and other products in 2013, and had sought talks with the carmaker, but blocked Ferrari’s registration to trademark the brand in Europe when no agreement could be reached.

Alessandro Masetti, a lawyer who is representing Purosangue pro-bono said: “This is David versus Goliath.” The brand has been in constant use, he said, including in a partnership to produce branded sneakers and clothes with Adidas, a sponsor of the charity.

Ferrari claimed the registration should be removed because of lack of use over the past five years, he said. “But we have plenty of proof of our activity.”

The case will be heard by a court in Bologna on March 5.  A spokesman for Ferrari said the company “does not comment on pending litigation”.

Max Monteforte, a running coach and former professional runner who founded the charity, said: “It is an injustice. Why should we give up our identity? They should have checked first. We are small so it’s hard to defend our brand, but we are doing important work.”

As well as its anti-doping work, the foundation has set up training camps for runners in Kenya, and funds health check-ups for the elderly.

Michele Costabile, a professor of marketing at Luiss University in Rome, said it was unsurprising that Ferrari would seek to control its brand. “Ferrari is . . . among the best known and most loved [brands],” he said. “The name Purosangue works well with the Ferrari horse logo, and they will be looking to the future and the possibility of it becoming an autonomous brand in its own right.”

Mr Monteforte said he was not intimidated by Ferrari’s prestige. “I am an athlete, used to getting up at 4.30am to train, so I have a certain mentality. I am not going to be scared off, even knowing that we are up against one of the most important brands in the world.”

Ferrari spun off from Fiat Chrysler in 2015 to become an autonomous publicly listed company. Last year, chief executive Louis Camilleri said Ferrari would halve its number of brand licensing agreements to focus on clothing and entertainment.