Lewis Hamilton loses three-year trademark battle with jeweller who sold ‘Hamilton’ watches since 1892

Lewis Hamilton has lost a three-year trademark battle with a jeweller who has sold ‘Hamilton’ watches since 1892.

Lawyers representing Formula One world champion Hamilton, 35, took action against Swiss group Hamilton International in 2017 after it trademarked the ‘Hamilton’ name throughout Europe.

Trademark ruling bodies concluded Hamilton, who won his seventh title at Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix, had no “natural right” to protect his “common” surname.

44IP, a firm located in Malta and established by the driver to oversee his image rights, claimed Hamilton International registered the name in “bad faith” and to prevent competition.

However the watchmaker was able to provide proof that it had sold products bearing the legend of its company name since its establishment in 1892.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) subsequently refused the request submitted by 44IP for the trademark to be voided.

The ruling noted that Hamilton is “a rather common surname in English-speaking countries”.

Credit: Luca Bruno/AP Photo

It highlighted in its judgement that Hamilton International – headquartered in the Swiss town Biel, which has been described as the ‘capital of watches’ – actively used ‘Hamilton’ for almost a century before the sportsman was born.

The ruling, which was issued by the Board of Appeal after an initial challenge had failed in December, noted that Hamilton is “a rather common surname in English-speaking countries”.

“There is no ‘natural right’ for a person to have his or her own name registered as a trademark, when that would infringe third parties’ rights,” it said.

“Even the cancellation applicant explicitly accepted that the contested mark ‘Hamilton’ had been used since 1892, i.e. even before the date of birth of ‘Lewis Hamilton’ a natural person.

“No bad faith can be found on the part of the EU trademark proprietor. In fact, the EU trademark proprietor demonstrated a significant economic activity in the horological field since 1892.”

The hearing also heard that 44IP was attempting to trademark Lewis Hamilton’s name for goods including watches, smartwatches and jewellery.

Hamilton International said the plans by 44IP to produce products “almost identical” to its own was “not appropriate or necessary”.

44IP was ordered to pay £893 towards costs accrued by Hamilton International in the case.

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