The Ferrari 250 GTO is probably one of the Prancing Horse's most elegant stallions. Only 39 examples were ever made; one even fetched a record-high USD 48.4 million at an auction in 2018.
With that kind of price tag and pedigree, Ferrari opted to trademark the 250 GTO's unique shape back in 2008. But now it seems that's not the case, as Ferrari has lost that trademark recently after a design dispute with Ares Design, a coachbuilding company that specializes in making modern interpretations of classic cars.
Ares already paid homage to the DeTomaso Pantera called 'Project Panther', and now they want to make a modern interpretation of the 250 GTO using an 812 Superfast as a base. But with Ferrari trademarking the shape of the 250 GTO, Ares Design decided to challenge the trademark.
Taking the issue to the European Union Intellectual Protection Office's Cancellation Division, Ares argued that Ferrari filed the trademark in bad faith, going as far as stating that the trademark meant blocking efforts to make recreation models. Ares also argued that since Ferrari has not used the 'GTO' name for the past five years, this makes it eligible for cancellation.
Ferrari responded to Ares Design's challenge by stating that the 250 GTO was only produced from 1962 to 1964 and is recognized by many as one of the most iconic cars Ferrari has ever made. By allowing the design of the 250 GTO to be used by others meant that it would devalue the original 250 GTOs since there would be more “examples” out on the road.
“Further, the EUTM proprietor argues that Ferrari's 250 GTO is destined to a very restricted market of collectors, celebrities and super-rich who can afford to spend millions of Euros to buy such an extra-expensive luxury car,” said Ferrari in a statement.
In the end, the European IPO regulators disagreed with Ferrari's argument and said that they cannot trademark the 250 GTO's design if they don't actually plan on building a new car that looks like it. This meant that Ares Design can now begin designing and manufacturing their own version of a 250 GTO. As for Ferrari, they managed to retain the right to prevent other companies from selling 250 GTO scale models/toys as they are the only ones licensed to make 250 GTO scale models.
With Ferrari long-known for protecting its brand image, it comes as to no surprise that they were against the use of allowing the 250 GTO's design to be used by others. Ferrari even went as far as sending cease and desist orders to customers like famous DJ 'deadmau5' for modifying his personal 458 Italia as the 'nyan cat' car. But with European IPO putting their foot down with the 250 GTO, they have to comply.
While Ferrari lost the trademark to the 250 GTO's shape, the Prancing Horse decided to file a trademark for the 250 GTO name instead. The new trademark covers automobiles, games, sunglasses, toys, and a lot more. Ferrari will have to wait until October 2020 to know whether their request has been accepted by the European IPO. So while they may have lost their rights to the 250 GTO's shape, at least Ferrari will be the only ones that will be able to use the 250 GTO branding.