One would think that free publicity is good and hardly a reason to complain but Ferrari disagrees: The Italian luxury sports car maker slapped German fashion designer Philipp Plein on Monday with a cease and desist order, accusing the designer of “tarnishing the reputation of Ferrari’s brands”.
The bone of contention? A series of pictures of the luxury cars Plein owns (not only Ferraris) with his label’s sneakers displayed alongside them. So far, so not good for the car maker: “In these pictures, Ferrari’s trademarks are used again for promotional purposes of your brand and products, unlawfully appropriating the goodwill attached to them.”
But that is not all: “Your behaviour, however, is even more harmful and serious in this case,'' says Ferrari, referring to a series of pictures of bikini-clad women cleaning those cars with the sneakers on top of them. “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’s cars as props in a manner which is per se distasteful,” complains the car maker.
“This behavior tarnishes the reputation of Ferrari’s brands and causes Ferrari further material damage. In fact, the undesired connection between Ferrari’s trademarks on the one hand, and Philipp Plein’s line of shoes (and the questionable manner in which they are promoted) on the other hand is interfering negatively with the rights enjoyed by Ferrari’s selected licensees which are exclusively entitled to use Ferrari’s trademarks to produce and promote lines of shoes Ferrari branded,” states the letter.
In it, Ferrari promises to take the matter to court and requests Plein to remove all images from social media no later than 48 hours after receiving the company’s cease and desist order. This deadline has already passed and though the image in question - Plein’s Phantom Kick$ sneakers atop his green Ferrari 812 Superfast - seems to have been removed, others are still displayed prominently on Plein’s Instagram account, together with Ferrari’s letter.
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GOT A LOVE LETTER TODAY FROM THE LAWYERS OF FERRARI asking me to delete the picture OF MY PERSONAL CAR WITH MY PERSONAL SHOES ON IT !!!!! I can’t even put in words how disappointed and disgusted I am about this unfair and totally inappropriate claim against me personally......obviously I love cars and ESPECIALLY FERRARI !!!! I bought my first FERRARI 10 years ago and recently I bought a Ferrari for my mother as her birthday gift !!!! I think it is absolutely ridiculous as a good client to receive such a letter from a company like FERRARI !!! This message goes out to the CEO Louis Carey Camilleri of FERRARI !! If you want to continue treating your loyal clients with such letters from your lawyers you will lose the support from many FERRARI FANS ! @scuderiaferrari
“I can’t even put in words how disappointed and disgusted I am about this unfair and totally inappropriate claim against me personally,” retorted Plein in an Instagram post on Monday itself, mentioning that he bought his first Ferrari ten years ago. “If you want to continue treating your loyal clients with such letters from your lawyers, you will lose the support from many Ferrari fans,” he added, accusing the car maker of “blackmailing” him for threatening to initiate legal action.
Given the prominent placement of the Ferrari word mark and prancing horse logo, which are trademarks, the car maker may have a base to its claim as consumer could easily be led to believe that a collaboration between the German designer and the Italian luxury car manufacturer exists.
However, in times of social media and posts getting popularised very fast, the car maker - who is not known for taking trademark infringement lightly - should have considered Plein’s very public response. Now it remains to be seen whose side Ferrari and Philipp Plein customers will take and who will benefit in the end from all the unintended publicity.
Plein has since gone a step further and released another video on Instagram, calling on owners of Philipp Plein sneakers to post them “on top of their supercar”. Looks like this battle may not be won by lawyers but by followers.