Ferrari, the Italian luxury sports car maker, is not impressed with the Instagram posts made by German fashion designer Philipp Plein. The Ferrari lawyers have sent a notice to Plein, clearly not impressed with the use of the Ferrari brand in some of the Instagram posts that he is making. Plein is the owner of a green coloured Ferrari 812 Superfast. The designer has made a series of Instagram posts with his green Ferrari in the frame, and has since also posted a photo of the letter sent by the Ferrari lawyers, counsel Fabrizio Sanna of Orsingher Ortu Avvocati Associati.
Plein calls it a ‘love letter’ in his Instagram post. The Ferrari lawyers say, “Ferrari’s trademarks and model cars are associated in your pictures with a lifestyle totally inconsistent with Ferrari’s brand perception, in connection with performers making sexual innuendos and using Ferrari cars as props in a manner which is per se distasteful”. The legal notice also suggests that Plein must take down all Instagram posts as well as similar posts made elsewhere on the web and social media, within 48 hours of receiving the latter. At the time of writing this, the posts are still visible on Plein’s Instagram feed. If they are not taken down, Ferrari lawyers have indicated that they will proceed with legal action.
That deadline has since passed.
Instead, Plein is firing back in an Instagram post. “The CEO of FERRARI Louis C. Camilleri should think twice before he let his lawyers send a letter like this to a valuable costumer who bought 4 brand new Ferrari’s in the last 10 years !!! I am still speechless about the unprofessional and aggressive behavior of the company FERRARI towards his clients ! This is a clear BLACKMAIL !!!! I will not remove the pictures and I will start legal action against the company Ferrari for this unprofessional behavior ! I expect an official APOLOGY from MR. Louis C. Camilleri!” he writes.
Incidentally, in a lot of the posts he has shared on Instagram, we can also see cars made by other manufacturers, including Rolls Royce and Lamborghini. Plein does have a number of posts that include his Ferrari 812 Superfast and sneakers or bikini clad models making up a part of the frame.
According to The Fashion Law, Ferrari might just have a strong case here. “While it is generally acceptable make use of brands’ trademarks in a descriptive, decorative, or other, non-source identifying capacity (which is why they tend to appear in movies, music videos, and even other brands’ ad campaigns without issue), there appears to be more going on here than that. Just as in the U.S., the holder of a registered trademark in Italy has the right to prevent third parties from using identical or similar trademarks for identical or similar products or services,” they say. There is also the argument that in one of the photos, Plein has positioned his sneakers (also in a shade of green) alongside the Ferrari logo, which could lead to an incorrect perception that Ferrari and Plein are working together on the product.
Then there is the question of how aggressively companies really need to enforce their trademark rights, and also how the fact that Plein owns the Ferrari car in the midst of this raging debate, could add complexity to this possible legal debate.
We can safely say this is not the last we have heard of this saga.