Lewis Hamilton, who recently became world champion for the seventh time at the Turkish Grand Prix, has lost a three-year legal battle with luxury watchmaker ‘Hamilton International over the brand name.
The Formula One world champion took action against the Swiss firm after it registered the name ‘Hamilton’ as a trademark, giving them exclusive rights to use the brand on accessories across Europe.
Lawyers for the British racer’s company 44IP tried to void the application and claimed it had been filed in ‘bad faith,’ thwarted ‘fair competition’, and had not even been used.
In their reply, Hamilton International, a part of the Swatch Group hit back with evidence that they have been selling watches bearing the name since 1892.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) agreed and have now refused the racing driver’s company’s request to cancel the trademark.
The union said Hamilton, 35, had no ‘natural right’ to have their name protected and pointed out the Swiss firm had been using it before he was born.
In its ruling, the EUIPO said: ‘The argument relating to the IP rights of the racing driver ‘Lewis Hamilton’ fails.
‘The contested mark consists solely of one word ‘HAMILTON’, and not ‘LEWIS HAMILTON’. It is a rather common surname in English-speaking countries.
‘There is no ‘natural right’ for a person to have his or her own name registered as a trademark, when that would infringe third parties’ rights.
‘Even the cancellation applicant explicitly accepted that the contested mark ‘HAMILTON’ had been used since 1892, i.e. even before the date of birth of ‘Lewis Hamilton’ as a natural person.
‘No bad faith can be found on the part of the EU trademark proprietor. In fact, the EU trademark proprietor demonstrated a significant economic activity in the horological field since 1892.’
According to Mail Online, the decision was handed down by the EUIPO’s Board of Appeal last month after the initial cancellation application was refused in December last year.
The hearing was told 44IP, named after the Mercedes driver’s race number, are attempting to trademark the name ‘Lewis Hamilton’ for a number of goods including watches, smartwatches and jewellery and Hamilton International are opposing the move.
Lawyers for the racing driver raised concerns that the rival firm were seeking to expand into smartwatches.
In reply, Hamilton International’s legal team filed evidence stating: ‘The appellant bases its accusation of bad faith of the contested trademark’s proprietor on the fact that this party has not provided evidence of the commercial intent of the proprietor of the contested trademark to expand its market to related goods.
‘We do not consider it appropriate or necessary to facilitate market strategies and marketing plans for a competitor, who intends to enter the market with a mark which is practically identical to the well-known earlier marks of our client, by offering goods which are also identical.’
44IP were ordered to pay £893 towards Hamilton International’s costs in the case.