Carroll Shelby lost his bid to trademark the iconic design of the Cobra 427, the vehicle that made him famous and has been copied thousands of times. Why did he lose? Because it was copied thousands of times.
Shelby's trademark bid was opposed by kit builder Factory Five Racing, which was able to prevail in a ruling last month. U.S. trademark law has a strong "use it or lose it" approach, and while Cobra production began in 1965, Shelby didn't file his trademark application until 1998 - after decades of kit-built replicas. Even letters of support from Lee Iacocca and Sir Stirling Moss did not sway the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Shelby says the decision released last month doesn't change his legacy or how he views the replica industry:
"I'm tired of people who can't design their own cars and have copied my designs for years," Shelby added. "These copy-kit guys are like barnacles on the bottom of a beautiful boat...they've latched on for a free ride. But eventually they'll drop off and no one will know they were ever there."
Factory Five explained their opposition:
Our position was that a Shelby trademark would have ignored the factual history of the car, which started life as an AC car with a Ford engine in it, as well as completely discounting the huge contributions that replica guys have made to the car's continuing legacy since the 1970's. We have never denied Shelby's part in history, but he has enjoyed huge popularity, in-part, due to replicas.
(H/T to Gary!)