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Major Formula 1 Sponsor Loses Logo Copyright Claim

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Rich Energy, the main sponsor of Formula 1 race team Haas, has lost a claim for copyright infringement against Whyte Bikes, a UK mountain bike manufacturer.

Rich Energy is a relatively new arrival in the lucrative global energy drink market. The owners of Whyte Bikes, ATB Sales, soon became aware of how similar Rich Energy’s ‘Stag Head’ logo was to Whyte’s, and decided to bring a claim for copyright infringement in March 2019. The recent decision, made in the UK High Court, was made in favour of ATB and Whyte Bikes.In passing judgement, Judge Melissa Clarke found that the defendants Staxoweb and Rich Energy had deliberately misled the court by claiming they were not aware of the existing Whyte Mountainbike logo, and found that the drinks company had also deliberately copied the design. The Judge commented:

I am satisfied that some of Mr Storey’s (for Rich Energy and Staxoweb) evidence was incorrect or misleading and that he was involved in the manufacture of documents during the course of litigation to provide additional support for the Defendants’ case…I do not accept either Mr Storey or Mr Kelly as credible or reliable witnesses and I treat all of their evidence with a high degree of caution. I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that both Mr Kelly and Mr Storey have lied about not being familiar with [Whyte’s logo]. I find it more likely than not that they were familiar with it, and that they directly and knowingly copied [it].”

The judgement states that copyright for the Whyte logo had been infringed by the Rich Energy logo, resulting in ATB being entitled to an injunction. The injunction means that Rich Energy may have to remove the logo on the F1 team car, and they may also be liable to pay damages to ATB. In response to the judgement, Rich Energy said:

Today the judgment was released in the claim brought by Whyte Bikes against us in respect of our stag logo. We are disappointed with the judgment & the findings of the judge which run counter to our submissions. We are considering all of our legal options including appeal."

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