Steve McQueen brings legal action against Ferrari

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The family of Steve McQueen have commenced legal action in the US against Ferrari for producing cars and products using the image of the late actor. The family claim that, although they visited the Ferrari factory, and met with Ferrari’s president to discuss using the McQueen name for special-edition car models, no formal deal was agreed. Despite this, in 2017 Ferrari sold four limited edition models branded ‘The McQueen’, resulting in the family alleging clear trademark infringement.

Ferrari then dropped the name and renamed it ‘The Actor’ but continued to use McQueen’s likeness on its website and in marketing material.  The McQueen family are now seeking an injunction against Ferrari to stop it associating the McQueen name, or image of the late actor, to any of its products and marketing material – as well as profits earned from using the name and likeness, statutory damages of $2 million, compensation of at least $1 million, and punitive damages against Ferrari for unfairly profiting from the name.

Even in his death, McQueen’s name carries a high premium, demonstrated by the recent sales of cars owned or used by McQueen being sold for record amounts – including a Porsche featured in McQueen’s film “Le Mans” selling for $14 million last year.

Although the potential profits may be enticing, retailers should always be careful to get express permission to use a celebrity’s image to sell or promote their products to avoid any potential litigation – which in this case may be very expensive; indeed, if Ferrari can Getaway without paying significant profits on this one, it truly will be a Great Escape….