Ferrari owners in California and around the country often post photographs of their cars on social media, but they may be wise to think carefully before doing so if the images involved could be construed as portraying the brand in a negative light. The iconic Italian sports car company takes its intellectual property rights extremely seriously, and it recently sent several sharply worded cease-and-desist letters to Ferrari owners who posted potentially embarrassing photographs of their vehicles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
One of the letters was sent to a German athletic shoe designer who frequently posts images of his latest products placed on his bright green Ferrari 812 Superfast. The letter instructed the man to post no more such pictures and delete the images already online. According to Ferrari, the images depicted a lifestyle that was not in keeping with the company's image and associated the man's products with a brand that had been built over several decades and at considerable expense.
However, many experts believe that Ferrari is acting to protect its profits and not its image. A hefty portion of Ferrari's revenue is earned not from building exotic road and race cars but from licensing its trademarks for use on products ranging from T-shirts to fountain pens. Sneakers and other footwear accounts for a healthy part of this portfolio.
These letters have attracted a great deal of media attention, which could be what Ferrari's intellectual property rights lawyers had in mind. Intellectual property litigation is costly and may not be worth pursuing when no direct infringement has taken place and damages could be difficult to establish, but widespread media coverage could allow companies to protect themselves without taking legal action. Letters like those sent out by Ferrari may disassociate intellectual property owners in the eyes of the public from activities that could tarnish their brands.