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The CAR Top 10: legal challenges to car names

Published: 27 March 2015

Aston Martin renames the Vantage GT3 the GT12. Hopefully better than we've cobbled together

► Porsche forces Aston to rename the Vantage GT3
► We look at other legal wrangles over badges
► Tell us your best suggestions in the comments below!

In the week that Porsche forced Aston Martin to change the name of its Vantage GT3 to GT12, we look at other legal spats in the car naming world. Its badging barristers at dawn, as we count down the top 10 disputes.

1) Aston Martin GT3 renamed after Porsche complained

The Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Or is it the GT12?

Remember the gutsy Aston GT3 at the 2015 Geneva motor show? Pure-bred Vantage violence in a track-optimised package. Problem was, Porsche kicked up a stink, got the lawyers involved and - hey presto - this week Gaydon confirmed the production version would be rebadged the GT12. Shame...

2) Peugeot kicks up a fuss over the Porsche 901. The 911 is born

Porsche wanted to call it the 901. Peugeot disagreed

One of the most iconic badges in motoring was only created after the French butted in and claimed rights to three-digit numbers with a zero in the middle. We can't say it's done Porsche any harm.

3) The Picasso family: not happy with the Xsara Picasso

Citroen Xsara Picasso caused a storm in a paint pot

Cast your mind back to 1999. Citroen was readying the Xsara Picasso MPV and had done a deal with Claude Picasso, the artist’s son and administrator of the Picasso estate. All seemed fine and dandy. Until Marina Picasso, the painter’s granddaughter, mounted a legal challenge. ‘I cannot tolerate that the name of my grandfather and of my father be used to sell something as banal as a car,’ she said. ‘He was a genius who is now being exploited outrageously. His name, his very soul, should not be used for any ends other than his art.’

4) Ford is unable to use its own GT40 name for its new supercar

Ford GTs with and without the 40 bit

Remember the Ford GT40? The Blue Oval's original supercar and Le Mans victor? Detroit investigated using the same name for 2004's follow-up, but regrettably they'd flogged the rights to Safir GT40 Spares Ltd of Cincinnati in 1999. The spares specialist insisted it was willing to license the badge back, but Ford stumbled at their demands (reputedly $40 million) and just knocked off the forty bit.

5) Ford forces Ferrari to change its F150 Formula 1 car's name

The Ferrari F150 became the F150th Italia

Rewind to 2011. Ferrari and Ford (yes, them again) came to blows over the F150 name. In a complaint filed at the US District Court in Detroit, the Blue Oval said: 'Ferrari has misappropriated the F-150 trademark in naming its new racing vehicle the F150 in order to capitalize on and profit from the substantial goodwill that Ford has developed in the F-150 trademark.' The Italians' response? To rename its F1 car the Ferrari F150th Italia. And then order another cappuccino.

6) Audi at loggerheads with Alfa Romeo over Q4 badge

Q4: an Audi or Alfa Romeo?

Ingolstadt's never-ending product offensive includes a model between the Q3 and Q5. Would be quite handy to call it a Q4, no? Well, it would be if Alfa Romeo didn't own the naming rights for its four-wheel drive system. Negotiations are said to be ongoing...

7) Zoe Renault takes Renault Zoe to court

With apologies to Mselles Laguna, Clio, Megane etc

The families of two young girls in France called Zoe Renault took exception to the name of La Regie's new electric car and launched a legal bid to block it. One father, Cedric Renault, said: 'We took this action because we do not want our daughters to be permanently associated with a car.' Renault's lawyers argued there were 122 products in the world already called Zoe and pointed out this was a comical claim. The judges, unsurprisingly, agreed.

8) AC Cobras and the ongoing naming ding-dong 

The AC MkVI. Just don't call it a Cobra, ok?

The AC Cobra is one of the most enduring names in motoring. But the legal challenges over its name have been numerous, and costly. No wonder the 'official' replicas are now called the AC MkVI.

9) Tesla's Model E blocked by Ford

Tesla founder Elon Musk wanted a range of Model S-E-X. Yes, really

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, told his annual general meeting that he wanted to call his third model line the Model E - but that Ford (them again) had taken exception. He told shareholders his planned three-model range of S-E-X had been foiled by the Blue Oval's legal threats... Maybe just as well, really. 

10) Brits in sheds try to thwart Ford Sierra

The Dutton Sierra. Ahead of its time - in more ways than one

In 1979 British south-coast kit car maker Dutton launched the Sierra, a kind of Escort-based soft-roader. A prescient model launch, we'd say. The problem was, Ford came along three years later and launched the Sierra and served a legal writ against Dutton. David beat Goliath, however, as the High Court in London ruled kit cars were separate from mainstream ones, and Dutton continued until production ceased in 1989. Bravo - the underdogs won for once!

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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