Intellectual Property

Property Rights and Pony Cars

I wonder what North American Aviation’s initial reaction was to Ford Motor Company’s lawyers in the 1960s, when Ford wanted to lift the name from NAA’s P-51 Mustang, arguably one of the most recognizable WWII war birds. I suppose I already know the answer. Too bad Ford isn’t as understanding when it comes to car owners using images of their cars.

Ford Mustang enthusiasts, the Black Mustang Club (BMC), were prevented from printing and selling a calendar featuring photographs of members’ cars via CafePress. According to a post at the BMC forum, their “use of Ford’s trademarks, including images of their vehicles, infringes upon their intellectual property rights.” Images of the vehicles- images that are the property of the owner of the vehicle- constitutes a rights violation? Blink. OK, trademarks are one thing, but publishing images of any Ford vehicle is a rights infringement? Absurdity of this statement aside, why on earth would Ford want to ostracize a group that pours tons of money into their product and, through the club’s activities, further advertises the Ford brand? My family members are all Jeep enthusiasts. I’ve experienced firsthand (Camp Jeep, Viriginia, 2000, 2003) how hard-core a group of people can be about their cars. What has impressed me thus far with DaimlerChrysler is the extent to which the company invests in promoting ‘Jeep culture.’ This move by Ford really surprised me. The BMC photos were going to be used to celebrate the Ford brand, not trash it.

Perhaps Ford had a problem with an organization making money by selling a product featuring their intellectual property. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Ford has a problem with owners photographing their cars but these enthusiasts should be wary of posting pictures on their personal web pages- sell these images and trouble is sure to come. Never mind that the returns on the Black Mustang Club calendars would have probably funded BMC’s organization operation and events, which would’ve further promoted Ford cars. I guess it’s not really Ford’s response that surprises me, it’s to whom the response was directed. This is not the group to nail for rights infringement (what about photos submitted to tabloids and magazines?). Apparently, Ford doesn’t need 9,000+ die-hard pony car enthusiasts. Wow, sorry kids but hey, I’ve heard those ’08 Dodge Challengers come in black…