Auto Service World
News   August 27, 2002   by Auto Service World

Shelby Loses Trade Dress Rights Case Over Cobra

The president of Superformance International Inc., James C. Price, and Ronnie Kruger, chief executive, today announced Superformance’s successful dismissal of Carroll Shelby’s trade dress claims in the shape of the Cobra automobile.
On Aug. 21, 2002, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued a summary judgment decision that, among other things, dismissed the trade dress claims asserted by Plaintiffs Shelby, Carroll Shelby Licensing Inc. and Shelby American Inc. against Superformance relating to the shape of the Cobra automobile.
Shelby claimed that he was the original designer of the Cobra automobile in the 1960s. By the late 1970s, dozens of companies had begun to advertise, manufacture and sell Cobra replicas.
In its dismissal of Shelby’s trade dress claims in the Cobra automobile design, the court found that, even if Shelby was the original designer of the Cobra car, he failed to prove that the primary significance of the Cobra shape in the minds of consumers is to identify Shelby as the single producer, which was a required element of Shelby’s trade dress claims.
The court stated that Shelby “has failed to present any evidence that consumers associate the Cobra design with Shelby, and Shelby alone as source.”
The court also dismissed Shelby’s trademark dilution claim based on the Cobra shape because Shelby could not prove that the shape of the Cobra car was a famous mark.
Superformance sells a range of component vehicles, including replicas of the 1960s Cobra, which are manufactured in South Africa by Hi-Tech Automotive. Hi-Tech Automotive exports its component vehicles to North America and Europe. Superformance’s replicas are produced with the permission of AC Cars, United Kingdom, the manufacturer of the AC body shape since the 1950s.

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