• Ferrari Is Threatening to Sue Someone Over Something Stupid...Again

Is Ferrari acting like a grouch again or does it have a case this time?

There are companies and brands that are protective of their trademarks and properties. Then there’s Ferrari. The Italian automaker is known far and wide for being extremely protective of its intellectual property to the point that it will go after anyone who uses its logos and trademarks for their personal use, especially if the use of said logos and trademarks do not reflect Ferrari’s standards. The latest to feel Ferrari’s wrath is German fashion designer Philipp Plein, who received what amounts to a “cease-and-desist” letter from Ferrari’s attorneys, demanding the removal of photos Plein took of one of his signature sneakers on top of his Ferrari 812 Superfast. The photo was posted on his Instagram account, and Ferrari was none-too-pleased about it.

Lawsuit Over a Ferrari With Shoes On It

It’s amazing the lengths an automaker will go to protect its trademarks. Nothing about isn’t surprising though. Ferrari is one of the most hardcore automakers when it comes to protecting its trademarks. The lengths it goes to is unlike anything you’ll see in the industry. This is, after all, the same automaker who banned Top Gear host Chris Harris earlier this decade after he wrote a less-than-flattering article for Jalopnik in 2011 criticizing the automaker for modifying its loaner cars so they perform better than expectations during media tests. Ferrari is also known for being on the receiving end of lawsuits from its loyal customers over the company’s strict procurement process, specifically when it comes to super limited-edition performance cars. Former race car driver and entrepreneur Preston Henn sued Ferrari after he wasn’t included in the short-list of “worthy” Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta owners.

Nothing about this issue between the Italian automaker and German fashion designer Philipp Plein comes as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the Prancing Horse.

It’s not surprising that Ferrari’s throwing a hissy fit against the fashion designer with threats to go to court over claims that Plein’s photo of a pair of his limited edition, $800-plus PHANTOM KICK$ signature sneakers on the hood of his green Ferrari 812 Superfast is an affront to the automaker’s image.

According to the company, Plein “tarnishes the reputation of Ferrari’s brands and causes Ferrari further material damage.”

On his Instagram account, Plein shows a letter from a law firm representing Ferrari, demanding that Plein take down the provocative pictures — there are also photos of scantily clad women with the 812 Superfast — within 48 hours because of how “distasteful” they look and because they damage the images of other shoe companies that are already affiliated with the automaker. Basically, Ferrari doesn’t like that Philipp Plein is associating the automaker’s image with his provocative and controversial fashion ethos. Specifically, Ferrari’s outside counsel Fabrizio Sanna of Orsingher Ortu Avvocati Associati asserts that Ferrari doesn’t want anything to do with Plein’s routine use of “performers making sexual innuendos and using Ferrari’s cars as props in a manner which is per se distasteful.”

I have to say; this is one of those times that I see where Ferrari’s coming from. There is something to be said for a Ferrari owner to show off his prized exotic on Instagram or on any other social media channel. I don’t believe that Ferrari will go through the lengths it’s going through with Plein if we’re talking about a private owner who’s taking these photos for his self-interest. It is, according to The Fashion Law generally acceptable to use a brands’ trademarks in a descriptive, decorative, or other, non-source identifying capacity.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case with Plein’s photos, or at least that’s not how Ferrari interprets those photos, specifically the one with the signature sneakers located right next to the Ferrari logo.

Throw in the color-coordinated nature of the photos and it’s easy to assume that the two brands could be working on some sort of collaboration, even if that’s not the case. That puts some semblance of validity to Ferrari’s claims of trademark infringement, in part because, just like in the US, a company that owns a registered trademark in Italy has the legal right to prevent third parties from using “identical or similar trademarks for identical or similar products or services.”

Considering how famous and valuable Ferrari’s trademarks are, it’s well within the automaker’s rights to sniff out any attempt at using these trademarks without the authority to do so. And in the case of Plein, it’s not hard to see this issue from Ferrari’s perspective, especially with Plein’s penchant for controversy. This is the same man who, according to GQ, took the stage at his S/S18 fashion show alongside rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, who is currently serving jail time for pleading guilty to sleeping with an underage girl while also filming the whole thing.

Not surprisingly, Plein didn’t take kindly to Ferrari’s attempts to have the photos deleted from his Instagram account. Instead of obliging, the fashion designer went on the offensive, decrying Ferrari’s treatment of a “loyal client” and “longstanding fan.” Plain put up a photoshopped image of Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri dressed as a clown and dared Ferrari to do something about it.

It’s still unclear if Ferrari has plans to follow through on its threats to take the issue to the next level, but the issue does raise a lot of questions on the difference between a personal post and an illegal promotional activity hidden inside the personal post.

Karin Sandberg, a lawyer at Hamburg law firm Harmsen Utescher who specializes in trademark cases, told Bloomberg that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine which counts as what. “The lines between what is private and what is public and what is commercial are increasingly blurred,” Sandberg said. “This is an issue that will gain prominence in the coming years as companies try to determine how influencers associate themselves with brands.”

If there is one thing that we can be sure of, it’s that this issue between Ferrari and Philipp Plein is far from finished. If Plein insists on keeping the photos on his Instagram account — he says he’s not taking them down — it’ll be interesting to see how Ferrari reacts to the fashion designer ignoring its cease-and-desist later. Don’t be shocked if Plein finds himself in Ferrari’s banned list sooner rather than later. A lot of celebrities have been banned for far less. Heck, it wouldn’t come as a shock if the two parties end up in court. Seems like that’s where this is headed anyway.

2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast specifications
Engine 6.5-liter V-12
Horsepower 789 HP @ 8,500 RPM
Torque 530 LB-FT @ 7,000 RPM
Transmission F1 dual-clutch
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) 2.9 seconds
Top Speed >211 mph
Weight 3,362 Lbs
Weight distribution (front/rear) 47%/53%

Further reading

2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast High Resolution Exterior
- image 708980

Read our full review on the 2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast.

2017 Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta High Resolution Exterior
- image 729406

Read our full review on the 2017 Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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