Carroll Shelby is suing long-standing Shelby Cobra and Daytona Coupe-replica kit car maker Factory Five, an associated fan forum and a California-based builder for trademark infringement of names and vehicles. A fan forum? Yup.
The lawsuit against Factory Five, FFCobra.com and LK Motorsports alleges the websites of all three entities, which it claims are agents of each other, all make unauthorized use of the “Cobra,” “Shelby,” and “Daytona Coupe” trademarks and several other less common ones like “427.”
There’s three interesting things here. First, Factory Five, among many other similar companies, is a long-standing manufacturer of Shelby Cobra look-a-like kits. So why Carroll Shelby has waited until now to sue is puzzling, especially since he’s encountered the replicas at many public events. Second, with the exception of the physical resemblance of the replica’s to vehicles produced by Shelby, the alleged trademark violations all seem fairly minor to us, existing in minor pieces of text and, as cited many times, in the Metatags of the defendants’ websites. The lawsuit cites that usage as, “a design to conceal their use…a knowing disregard for the Plaintiff’s rights, and also demonstrates…malice, willfulness, and fraud.” Third, we're not entirely certain FFCobra.com is an agent of Factory Five. In fact, it seems pretty clear they're advertisers and not owners of the site. If that were the case, then blueovalforums.com would be owned by Ford.
While we don’t argue that Factory Five’s vehicles are intentionally intended to look exactly like the famous vehicles of Caroll Shelby, we’re extremely puzzled as to why he’s decided to sue the company, its owner forum and California based builder now. Factory Five has been in the business of building Cobra replicas since 1995 and is only one of many companies doing so. Does Shelby plan to sue every replica maker and garage builder in the country? Or, more unbelievably, every website devoted to discussing his legendary automobiles or their replicas? It’s the selectiveness of this lawsuit that puzzles us in addition to the inclusion of the owner fan forum. Actions like this can only serve to alienate his fans and customers.