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Old 05/13/2006, 11:34 AM   #1
BroadwayBlue
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Ford suing Mustang Parts Business

Found this on the vintage Mustang forum.
Don't know if anyone else saw it.

I remember VW was doing this awhile back with the VW and Beetle trademark. Even classic car shows couldn't specify VW or Beetle. Bugfest and similar names became popular. They were worried about being held responsible if something happened I think.

Rich

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.d...ONEY/605100302

Article published May 10, 2006
Mustang mayhem
Stockton firm faces suit by Ford for trademark violation

STOCKTON - Mustangs Plus Inc., which has spent 25 years building up its specialty parts business under the Mustang moniker, now must tear that trademark from its business and Internet domain names or face a suit by Ford Motor Co.

Compliance with Ford's demands will negatively impact company value in the present and company sales in the future, said Ron Bramlett, a partner in family-owned Mustangs Plus at 2353 N. Wilson Way in Stockton.

"I was a young man when I started this. You work half your life and then have it snatched," said Bramlett, 52.
Ford also is trying to protect the value of the business it has built since 1903, said Gregory Phillips, a partner in the firm that drafted the cease and desist letter.

"The courts have recognized that a trademark name such as Mustang is an important asset of Ford Motor Co.," Phillips said.

The Feb. 16 letter from Howard, Phillips and Andersen, a Utah law firm representing Ford on intellectual property enforcement matters, asked Mustangs Plus to:

» Transfer to the automaker the registration for mustangsplus.com.

» Submit to government offices all forms necessary to discontinue registration of the Mustangs Plus name.

» Cancel Internet and telephone directory listings and advertising under the Mustangs Plus name.

» Turn over for destruction all signs, banners, business cards and collateral materials.

» Issue a check to Ford for $10,000 in damages.

Since 2000, the firm has sent "hundreds" of similar letters to businesses perceived to have trampled on Ford trademarks, Phillips said.

Ford has been successful in collecting damages in most of those cases.

While most businesses settle out-of-court, about 50 lawsuits have been filed, and all of those were resolved in Ford's favor, according to Phillips.

The scope of trademark infringement actions could be widened to include publications and organizations that use Mustang and other Ford trademarks, he said.

In the 1990's, Ford sent guidelines to selected restoration parts manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, including Mustangs Plus, authorizing the use of trademarked names as long the business name was accompanied by a qualifying word or phrase such as "vintage" or "classic."

Bramlett and his partners believed Mustangs Plus met that criteria, and a decade of silence from Ford quarters deemed confirmation.

Bramlett believes that the use of the Mustang name by those unaffiliated with Ford amounts to free advertising.
"I have to believe in those years Mustang was glad to have people use the name," Bramlett said.

That argument has been rejected by the courts, Phillips said.

Harry Pulliam, owner of Mustang and Muscle Parts in Oakdale, in the mid-1980's received a letter similar to the one recently delivered to Mustangs Plus.

"I told them a long time ago I would be willing to sell Chevy parts," he said.

Now, two decades later, a legal battle would hardly be worth his while.

"I would just quit," he said.

Intellectual property is a gray area of the law, said Gregg Meath, a Stockton attorney who teaches Internet and computer law at University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law.

Meath said that Mustang Plus' use of the trademark is likely fair since it is descriptive and does not imply affiliation with Ford.

"How else are they to tell people what it is they do?" he said.

But, he said, a court battle would be a "big guy vs. little guy" fight that would cost Mustangs Plus tens of thousands of dollars.

"We try to wear the white hats and be reasonable," Phillips said. "It's already bad when you have a big company come after a little company."

For now, Mustangs Plus and Ford are at a stalemate.

"We've spent some time with our attorney, who has spent some time with them. It's very costly and it's going nowhere," Bramlett said.

Phillips also voiced frustration with the lack of resolution.

"Ford is not trying to put this guy out of business. We've offered Mustangs Plus a reasonable transition period of three to six months.

Mustangs Plus partners, who include Bramlett's brother, David, will likely not sign the Ford agreement, viewing such an action as an admission of guilt,

But they have decided to rename the business using the word "restomod," a term referring to car restoration and modification that Mustangs Plus copyrighted.

The wording of the final name has yet to be ironed out, though: That decision must wait for another business to relinquish its hold on the "restomod" moniker.
Contact reporter Michelle Machado at (209) 943-8547 or mmachado@recordnet.com

Rich

1968 Acapulco Blue GT/CS 289 * 1996 Red GT Convertible *
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Old 05/13/2006, 11:49 AM   #2
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With business being as it is right now, shouldn't Ford worry more about future sales instead of worring about people wanting to repair old heaps.
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Old 05/13/2006, 12:04 PM   #3
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There used to be a bar in Alpine WY that was called Jeeps. The guy that owned it had been nicknamed Jeep when he was a kid and grew up with the nickname and he named his bar Jeeps. As soon as Chrysler bought out Jeep they threatend him with a law suit and he had to change his bars name.

I agree that the use of the name only lends itself to free advertisment as long as they aren't selling something that competes with them. Every time we went past that bar we thought about a Jeep and I eventually bought one. Coincidence maybe but heck it didn't hurt anything.

Cory

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Old 05/13/2006, 01:52 PM   #4
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I once saw a "Nicky Mouse" watch in Malaysia. I wonder if we will soon see Nustang Plus and Nustang Monthly. Trademark law is a tough area to litigate and it all comes down to context. What is the context with which the trademark is being used. Clearly one is not prohibited from using the word "Mustang" (if trademarked by Ford), but rather how it is used. Again, a very unclear area of context. Whether it is good business to beat up people helping to advertise your product is a different matter. Casey

1968 GT/CS on cover and featured article, "Gold Rush", in Mustang Times, February 2006
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Old 05/13/2006, 02:35 PM   #5
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looking at this simplisticly, i think it sucks. Shame on Ford. I bought my $550 Griffin Aluminum Radiator and LED Sequential tailights from Mustangs Plus...oops i mean Nustangs Plus
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Old 05/13/2006, 03:29 PM   #6
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I don't think ticking off your loyal fan base is a good idea for Ford. I can't even think why they would do this. Without being a lawyer, wouldn't it be possible to bring a case to have Ford's trademark of "Mustang" nullified since it was originally taken from the P51 fighter of WW2 (and later changed to the running horse) and therefore it would be a 60 year old name that wasn't trademarked, making it public domain? Basically I'm just disappointed in Ford and want them to get their faces slapped.
Steve

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Old 05/13/2006, 05:32 PM   #7
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There is a towing company here in Orange County, NY (Yes the same Orange County as Orange County Choppers) called Mickey's Towing.

They used to have a graphic on their trucks that resembled Mickey (aka Nickey) Mouse.

Disney sued him and forced him to take it off.

Again I think the concern was that if the truck was in an accident for example, someone could turn around and sue Disney because of it.

On a similar note ... do you know that U-Haul will not rent a trailer to someone that owns a Ford Explorer? When I bought a lawn tractor from a guy at work I wanted to rent a trailer to get it home. They refused to lend it to me. The reason they said was that with all the issues Ford had with the Firestone tires, people that were towing U-Haul trailers and had a problem - ended up suing U-Haul as well for loss of property, etc ...
So they refuse to rent trailers to Explorer (and I assume the Mecury Mountaineer) owners.

I looked at the lady like "Are you kidding me?" I said it's not even the same truck anymore it's totally redesigned ... sorry she said that's the corporate policy! How bizzarre.

Rich

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Old 05/13/2006, 06:27 PM   #8
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Couldn't Mustangs Plus rename their company "Mustang Parts Plus", like "Larry's Thunderbird & Mustang Parts"? That way the "Mustang" becomes a descriptor for the parts they sell.
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Old 05/13/2006, 08:11 PM   #9
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This is truely amazing. Places like Mustangs Plus with their advertising, their car shows, etc only increase the value of the Mustang brand, its legacy, and its panache. In the internet world this is known as "viral marketing" - getting others (usually individuals through word-of-mouth) to advertise for you for free. If I were Ford I would be trying to work with these guys by getting my new stangs shown off at their car shows, etc. And, oh by the way, Mustangs Plus, etc sell Ford products through their stores (eg crate engines). I really don't get this. There are other ways to protect a trademark - its not like Mustangs Plus is selling bad products or even taking any sales away from Ford. I'll tell you one thing, I only own Fords but I'll now think twice about buying a *new* Ford again...

The world stands aside to let anyone pass who knows where he is going.
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Old 05/13/2006, 08:52 PM   #10
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Hey!!! Mustangs Plus is my local go-to place....I have bough A LOT of stuff from them. They have great staff and are nothing but an asset to the Mustang community.

I think this whole thing is NOT cool.

Didn't the Eagles (or Don Henley?) have a song that had lyrics about "...shoot all the lawyers?"

Along those lines, I have a friend who had a business called "Parties R Us". Well, you can guess who had an issue with this after they registered their domain name.

I hope the Mustangs Plus prevails...and is able to tell FORD to F*** OFF!!

-Jeff
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Old 05/14/2006, 04:49 AM   #11
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Any insights on the legal aspects of all this Casey?
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Old 05/14/2006, 05:55 AM   #12
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In my opinion, "its all business". All big companies must protect their names. They can be unscrupulous at times.

RHONDA
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Old 05/14/2006, 07:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miller511
Didn't the Eagles (or Don Henley?) have a song that had lyrics about "...shoot all the lawyers?"
"The first thing we do, kill all the lawyers."
It originated in Shakespeare's "Henry VI" but the context was different. Still in the US, although they are definitely needed, they seem to cause their share of problems just because of their shear numbers - they've all got to have *something* to do...

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Old 05/15/2006, 06:59 AM   #14
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The reasonable thing for Ford to do would be to issue a license to some of these classic Mustang parts vendors to use the mark. It accomplishes both purposes, asserting ownership and protecting ownership of the mark, while still furthering the ablilty of these guys to sell parts to mustang enthusiasts (something Ford apparently doesn't want to do anyway). Sending a cease and desist letter is a bit over the top, and I agree a way to tick off the fan base. Don't kill all the lawyers!

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Old 05/15/2006, 08:05 AM   #15
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To put things in context - There is a lawyer for every 5,800 people in Japan. There is one for every 270 in the U.S. (BusinessWeek) - You probably have one in your neighborhood.

There are two aspects to this: Business and Law.

Trademark law allows Ford to assert against anyone using the name in context to the Mustang car. But, is it good business? The Disney tow truck example is a good example that Disney thought that business could be hurt.

Some bright business manager at Ford may have gotten the idea that Ford could make a little extra revenue off the Mustang name by licensing the trademark to those already using it. For a company the size of Ford it costs almost nothing to have outside counsel to send a boat load of letters to potential infringers (btw - Ford has been after the FoMoCo Obsolete web site for some time). Lawyers can argue how the Mustang name is used in context for a long time, and it is just a matter of business/money until they decide to quit (was OJ really innocent?).

The key is contextual language, as already mentioned. Personally I dont think Mustangs Plus hurts Ford, or sells Mustangs - but, Ford may have decided it wants to make a few bucks off licensing the trademark, and insuring integrity of the trademark. My two cents.

(BTW - I work in a big corporation law department. Attorneys work for me, but I am not an attorney - I am one of those bright business guys looking for ways to make money from licensing our intellectual property - including trademarks )

Casey

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