SNR Denton and Macfarlanes prepare for Formula 1 branding battle

A legal battle over who has the rights to use the Lotus brand in Formula 1 racing will hit the High Court next week.

SNR Denton partner John Linneker and 11 South Square’s Michael Silverleaf QC will go head to head with Macfarlanes partner Geoff Steward and 20 Essex Street’s Guy Morpuss QC in the battle over the brand.

The row stems from the fallout between Group Lotus, a Malaysian-owned sportscar and engineering business based in Britain, and a company called 1Malaysia F1 Team, which is made up of a consortium of Malaysian interests assembled by entrepreneur Tony Fernandes.

Fernandes, who founded Air Asia, was granted a licence by Group Lotus to use the brand during the 2010 motorsport season. The consortium went into partnership with Malaysian manufacturer Proton, which bought out the Lotus Group in 1990s.

However, the relationship broke down and Group Lotus withdrew permission for 1Malaysia to use the Lotus brand, citing “flagrant and persistent breaches of the licence by the team”. Instead, it offered partnership to the Renault Formula 1 team, which will now been known as Lotus Renault.

Meanwhile, 1Maylasia brought the brand rights to the original Formula 1 team (which withdrew from the circuit in 1994) and unveiled plans to brand as Team Lotus for the 2010 competition.

Now both teams plan to compete at the opening race in Bahrain in March.

Silverleaf, who represents Group Lotus, has applied to the High Court for a summary judgment in the case, which begins on Monday (24 January).

Morpuss represents 1Malaysia F1 Team.