While sections of the F1 media are giving a wide berth to the news of the striking similarity between Formula One's new logo and that of 3M's Futuro tights, not so the world of marketing. In the days since the Telegraph broke the story, marketing and trademark exerts have been intrigued by the similarity, in terms of how it happened and where it might end.
Speaking to Marketing-Interactive.com, former BrandAsian CEO Joseph Baladi says he believes an investigation is warranted.
Admitting that the logos are “clearly similar” he admitted that "the logos can co-exist because the brands are present in very different categories" but that this "might not be sufficiently persuasive to both brand owners".
"Whilst there is always the possibility of coincidence that the logos were created independently, an investigation for possible leaks at Futuro or plagiarism at Wieden + Kennedy needs to takes place," he said.
"The only safeguard companies have in protecting the potential future equity value a logo promises, never mind the development costs, is security," he added.
There is no suggestion that anything improper has actually taken place and Baladi is not accusing 3M, the logo designer Wieden + Kennedy or F1 of that. He is saying that, if only for peace of mind, an investigation should take place so that they can rule out anything untoward.
The worst case scenario would be that one of the logos was used to create the other. No evidence has come to light that this has happened but it is possible that one of the parties could claim that it did.
Speaking to Chris Sylt, who broke the news in the Telegraph, trademark lawyer Michael Gardner at Wedlake Bell LLP said "On the face of it, 3M might also suggest that their mark has been copied to produce the F1 logo," he says. "If no copying has taken place then copyright is not an issue. But if the designer of the F1 logo did see or was aware of the 3M logo, then it might be possible to allege copying. Copyright infringement does not require an exact copy to be made. It is enough that the disputed work incorporates the "expression of the intellectual creation" of the author of the original work.
"If for example, I saw the 3M mark and decided to make some changes, add things and turn it into the F1 mark, that would probably be infringement. So F1 will need to show that it arrived at the new design independently and that its designer was not aware of and did not copy the 3M logo."
He adds "I agree that visually the competing trade marks do look similar. Obviously the F1 logo is more complex in that it has the additional element of the stylised "1" and the lines are more elongated. But certainly as far as trade mark law is concerned, the two marks are "similar".
However, he says that “if 3M have no other registrations for their mark, then as far as EU trade mark law is concerned, they will not be able to stop F1 registering the new mark for most of the goods or services applied for. The only possible scope for 3M to cause a problem might be in relation to clothing in class 25. But even if 3M objected to the F1 application, I suspect that F1 would be able to overcome the problem or do a deal by putting in an amendment into their class 25 schedule to exclude the specific goods which are covered by the 3M registration. They may negotiate something, they may not.
"It remains to be seen, whether 3M will make an attempt to oppose the F1 application. Usually in such cases, it will be possible to reach a compromise. But not always." Fans are waiting with bated breath to see what happens next. The road ahead is unclear because, along with sections of the F1 media, thus far FOM, though approached, has opted not to comment.