Yesterday, news of Ford wielding the legal axe upon fan site, TheRangerStation.com, had several “The Man Is Evil, Dude” auto blogs out for Ford blood. Today, many of those same blogs have since published retractions, citing they weren’t aware of Ford’s official position on the matter until today, presumably after receiving clarification from Ford. However, had the aforementioned blogs been enterprising enough to search TheRangerStation forums in their entirety before slapping together a post, they would have found the “whole story” yesterday – replete with 55 pages worth of legal documents from the law firm itself. Nevertheless, many failed to review that pertinent information before going to print, and instead chose to assume that Ford was arbitrarily picking on TRS in an abusive exercise of their corporate omnipotence. Well, as it turns out, they were right.
When RideLust reported on the story yesterday, we/I did so flush with the knowledge that TRS had been manufacturing and selling official TRS club insignia bearing the Ford logo without explicit permission from Ford. Now usually the “well everybody else was doing it” excuse isn’t viable outside of the third grade, but when used within the context of automotive enthusiast groups, it is. For every vehicle on the street right now, there is at least one web-based fan forum convinced of its automotive supremacy. For every one of those fan forums, there are countless stickers, mudflaps, hood ornaments, etc., expressing sentiments like “FoMoCo” or, for the Chevy crowd, “FoNoGo.” So yes, TRS was using the Ford logo, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any fanboy site that doesn’t. Does that meant that TRS isn’t guilty of copyright infringement? No. Was/is Ford justified in taking legal action? Yes. It was never my – nor RideLust’s – intent to insinuate that Ford was unfairly prosecuting TRS, because the facts of the matter were very clearly presented to me before I formed any opinion. Thus, what I did intend to express was my utter disbelief at Ford’s apparent lack of common sense.
See you, Ford, are not exactly enjoying any sort of overwhelming popularity with the American public right now, and although any action you take in pursuit of protecting your intellectual property is completely justifiable, do you really think it wise to risk losing any of your limited support over some crudely plagiarized sticker? TRS was pulling in like, what, maybe a hundred bucks a month on those decals? And the TRS fan-base spends (or is willing to spend) what, a couple hundred bucks a month on a Ford truck payment? Would you like a pencil and paper, or can you do the math in your head?
Perhaps this is a rather simplistic view of company-consumer relations, but it seems to me that if a company is losing billions of dollars a month in sales and holds a current NYSE market value of a paltry $3.20 a share (according to price last listed in my portfolio), it would be in its best interest to cling to any sort of support vehicle that it has. Now of course this doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate trademark infringement, but there’s got to be at least one person left on the Ford Public Relations payroll who could devise an equally-as-effective, less rigid approach. You’re already waging a pretty epic war on the economic front, but thanks to Mulally’s gift of foresight and Ford’s steady creep up the dependability charts, Ford actually has a legitimate chance of dominating the domestic market as the people’s favorite. So for crying out loud guys, don’t blow it over some horny 20-something’s rendering of a busty broad straddling the Blue Oval.