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Ford Sues Fanboy Site For Copyright Infringement

Posted in Ford, Legal, Newsworthy by Suzanne Denbow | December 10th, 2008 | 2 Responses |

Recently, Ford Ranger fan site TheRangerStation.com, has come under legal fire from Ford for supposedly violating Ford’s trademark and intellectual property rights, and Ford apparently isn’t content to merely issue a warning. According to TheRangerStation.com administrator, Jim Oaks, Ford has ordered Oaks to fork over $5,000 in fines and surrender the domain name to them by December 19th. Oaks, who has been operating TheRangerStation for nearly 10 years, was blindsided by the attack but says he doesn’t have the financial resources to fight Ford in court. As a matter of fact, Oaks doesn’t have the financial resources to pay the 5 grand either, and he’s not entirely sure what he’s going to do. Discussing his options with enthusiasts in TheRangerStation forums, Oaks remarked ironically, “I think it’s so damn bizarre that I emailed back and forth with Ford when they were designing the FX4 and even got to wheel with them to test it out before it hit the dealers, and now they’re screwing with us.”

Seeking to clarify their position on the matter, Ford responded to TheRangerStation via email: “Ford has no complaints with Ranger enthusiasts or people who support the Ford brand. All Ford is doing is protecting its intellectual property, and protecting its licensees.” The letter went on to say that although Ford goes to great length to protect its image, it in no way seeks to alienate its fan base.

“At times Ford enthusiasts question why Ford is so adamant about policing its trademarks and preventing unauthorized uses or infringements of them. It is quite common for someone who is using a trademark without permission to say, “I’m giving Ford free advertising, so why does Ford care?” Ford cares because it is important that Ford be able to exercise control over the quality of the product or service bearing Ford’s trademarks. If a disreputable business sells an inferior product or service that uses a Ford trademark, the poor quality of that product or service reflects on Ford. A person who is disappointed by that poor product or service will not take the time to determine whether Ford in fact authorized the use of its trademarks. They will, probably rightly, assume Ford to be the ultimate source of their disappointment and may transfer their loyalty to a competitor.

If a business not affiliated with Ford uses any Ford trademark, whether through the use of photographs, depictions or silhouettes, or any confusingly similar variation thereof, without Ford’s express, written consent, then that business is violating Federal and state trademarks laws. That business is also misleading the public into believing that such business is affiliated with Ford. It is also not sufficient for a business to state that it is not affiliated with Ford but continue to use Ford trademarks without permission. The business is still misappropriating the goodwill and reputation developed by Ford, and attempting to capitalize on or profit from Ford’s goodwill and reputation. Even with the best of intentions, unauthorized use of another company’s trademark is against the law and misleading to the general public.”

So to summarize, in an attempt to maintain brand integrity and ensure the protection of their customer base, Ford has decided to bite the hand that feeds them. Nice one, guys.

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2 Responses

  1. Scott Monty says:

    Ford’s official response, posted on a number of sites, is as follows:

    Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. Without question, Ford enthusiasts are extremely important to us. Their enthusiasm and loyalty are part of our heritage and part of what’s going to keep us moving forward.

    Recently, there was an item posted stating that Ford was requesting TheRangerStation.com to turn over its URL to Ford and pay $5,000. We’d like the opportunity to share some additional facts that might make a difference in how you think about this situation.

    In its communications, TheRangerStation.com stated that Ford was making them change the name of their site and pay $5,000. What was not mentioned was that TheRangerStation.com was selling counterfeit Ford-brand merchandise on the site. As a company, Ford has a responsibility to protect our brand and a responsibility to our licensees. We cannot let something like that pass. (The counterfeit goods have been removed from the website since TheRangerStation.com got the letter from Ford’s attorney.)

    Please know that Ford takes no joy in pursuing enthusiast sites. Since there are a number of sites out there with Ford vehicles as part of their names or URLs, some people have asked if they should be concerned. Ford has been and continues to be willing to license its trademarks for use by enthusiast groups and enthusiast websites. Requesting a license is done easily by contacting tmgroup@ford.com. To request a license to produce or sell branded merchandise bearing Ford’s trademarks, contact branduse@ford.com.

    In short, we are not asking for $5,000 and we would like them to keep the domain name. We simply encourage TheRangerStation.com to contact Ford to request a license to continue using the domain name.

    We hope you will share this information with anyone who is concerned. We deeply appreciate our fans’ dedication and enthusiasm and want to be able to work together with all of our supporters to tell the Ford story.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  2. Eric B says:

    Yet another Internet shit fest started without all the facts. If they really are selling counterfeit Ford branded merchandise, then they are in the wrong. I’m so tired of people trying to get everyone riled up and then leaving out exceedingly pertinent information.