To most people the term “F1” is synonymous with the highest level of motor sport where the races are fuelled as much by drama as they are by gasoline. With year round races taking place in 19 countries, spreading across 6 continents and watched by hundreds of millions of TV audiences worldwide, the fame of F1 seems to be beyond dispute. Therefore it comes as a bit of a surprise when Formula One Licensing B.V. (the trademark manager for the race organiser Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) lost a trademark opposition action against the application of Idea Marketing SA (the appointed global promoter for the F1 Powerboat World Championship) to register the trademark “F1H2O” in Singapore. More shockingly, the Registrar who chaired the opposition hearing took the view that the F1 mark was not well known in Singapore. However, on closer inspection, the Registrar’s unexpected finding turned out to be less sensational and rather more rational.
Formula One Licensing B.V. (the Opponent) based the opposition on 3 grounds, namely, the application of Idea Marketing’s (the Applicant) mark encroaches on the Opponent’s earlier trademarks (and their alleged well-known mark), the use and application of the Applicant’s mark constitutes passing off, and the Applicant had applied to register its mark in bad faith.