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.