Rich Energy logo, Haas, 2019

Haas sponsor Rich Energy unconcerned by legal row over logo

2019 F1 season

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Haas’s new title sponsor Rich Energy has played down concerns it could be forced to change its logo due to a court case involving another company which uses a similar design.

[retrompujps01]ATB Sales Limited, which produces the Whyte bicycle brand, has brought a claim against Rich Energy and its CEO William Storey before the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. The two companies have registered similar logos featuring antler designs. Storey opposed an attempt by ATB to register one mark in 2017.

The case is due to be heard on the 12th and 13th of March with a judgement due on May 1st – four races into the 2019 F1 season.

Speaking to RaceFans at the presentation of Haas’s livery at the Royal Automobile Club in London last week Storey dismissed fears the company may be forced to alter its logo.

“I have no concerns whatsoever,” said Storey. “I won’t use the word ‘nonsense’ but it’s really without foundation.”

Haas’s new colour scheme, which reflects Rich Energy’s branding, drew immediate comparisons with the John Player Special Lotus liveries of 1972 to 1986. However Storey says his choice of colours for the brand was not inspired it.

“Our brand has always been black and gold and in essence that’s because I’ve always found it a really evocative combination, I always liked it. The fact that I also loved the JPS Lotus cars is very serendipitous.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “Haas sponsor Rich Energy unconcerned by legal row over logo”

  1. Hans (@hanswesterbeek)
    11th February 2019, 8:08

    For those concerned, here’s a good view on the Whyte bikes logo, which is indeed terrifyingly similar to the Rich Energy logo.

    The only difference is that the Rich logo has two extra ‘branches’ on the top. So yes, the logos are almost identical (my guess is that they both used the same template from some cheap make-your-own-logo service and Whyte took the effort to remove the extra branches where Rich didn’t). But no, that is not a problem I would say. I’m no expert on these matters, but I think one of the key criteria is whether ‘regular consumers’ would mistake one for the other. Which is very unlikely considering one sells bikes and the other sells soft drinks.

    1. Hans (@hanswesterbeek)
      11th February 2019, 8:09

      … and the link broke. Just check

    2. The only difference is that the Rich logo has two extra ‘branches’ on the top.

      Sounds like Rich Energy will have to break out the “Vanilla Ice Defence”. If I remember correctly, when he was sued for copyright infringement because his one hit sounded exactly like Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie, he argued that “dum dum dum da da dum dum tsh” is completely different to “dum dum dum da da dum dum”. It didn’t work strangely enough…

    3. Yes, I believe you are right. As long as they don’t have the same line of business it shouldn’t be a problem, they could even share the same name (food industry and consumer industry in this case, so I’m certain people won’t buy a drink and somehow bring a bike home instead).

      Unless we are talking about prestige brands, such as Coca-Cola, these sort of thing shouldn’t be an issue

      1. I think you’re getting a few things mixed up…

        keep it in mind I have no idea how British law works, but it usually goes like this: when it comes to a company/product name, yes, you’re in the clear as long as you aren’t in the same line of business as another company, and you aren’t trying to ride the hype train of some major brand (no, you cannot name a funeral home Coca-Cola Funerals). Logos and/or brand identities are a different beast, though: here, what’s usually trademarked is the shape and (sometimes) the colours, meaning that I could not use a similar shape Whyte Bicycle’s antlers for my cornershop grocery store, otherwise I would be getting free publicity everytime Whyte has its logo printed out somewhere. likewise, Ferrari could prevent me from using their shade of red on the menus of my food truck, if they felt like it.

        as pointed out, probably both Rich and Whyte got a $5 template logo from somewhere, but Whyte registered it first, so I believe they will be leaving the court a bit Richer (pardon the pun!), unless their lawyers really suck (also, Rich’s involvement with F1 could be part of the reason Whyte decided to sue, since both F1 and bikes could be seeing under the guise of Transportation; seems silly, but it’s the kind of thing which sticks in court). but, as people has said below, if I had to guess, intellectual property theft appears to be the least of Rich’s illegal activities…

        1. @arrows98, it appears that Whyte Bikes initiated their lawsuit some time before Storey began getting involved in F1, with the filing going back to 2017 – I suspect that the lawsuit was already ongoing when Storey first approach teams in F1, and it’s more of a case of the increased media awareness resulting in this ongoing legal action being publicised much more prominently.

          There is also an area where there is potentially much closer overlap, as Whyte bikes does also produce accessories for their bikes. Those accessories include drinks bottles, so it is possible that the conflict arose over drinks related merchandising – it is an area where there is more overlap between the two companies.

        2. I don’t think Ferrari could prevent you from using Red on your truck, even if it’s a 100% pantone match.

          Now, if you had a red truck with a yellow shield, and, say, a gorilla on that shield, Ferrari could probably complain, and expect to be successful in any litigation as a result.

          Then there’s the crazier interpretation– a few years ago, in recognition of 150 years of unification in Italy, Ferrari called their F1 car the “F150”. Ford made threatening noises, and the case was settled out of court, with Ferrari changing the name of their F1 car. Many people pointed and laughed, but the reality is that in the USA at least, Ford is *required* to defend their trademark, or they could lose control over it.

    4. I’m no expert on these matters, but I think one of the key criteria is whether ‘regular consumers’ would mistake one for the other. Which is very unlikely considering one sells bikes and the other sells soft drinks.

      You’re kinda missing the point here, logo’s are supposed to represent a certain brand, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bike or a soft drink, when you look at the logo you’re supposed to know who it represents. I actually have a Whyte bike and when I first saw the logo bandied around F1 i thought it WAS them, and that’s the point isn’t it?

      ‘No foundation’ says Storey, what a load of tosh, is it nigh on IDENTICAL. Hope he loses, dislike him already…

      1. Hans (@hanswesterbeek)
        12th February 2019, 5:37

        Thanks for clearing that up!

    5. I’m no expert on these matters, but I think one of the key criteria is whether ‘regular consumers’ would mistake one for the other. Which is very unlikely considering one sells bikes and the other sells soft drinks.

      I remember back in 2011, just before the London Olympics, a certain Olympic Cafe in South London was hit by an injunction from the games organisers to prevent them from using the name they had traded under for a number of years. Were potential customers likely to be confused about what each entity was supplying?

      The de facto rule is “whoever has the most expensive lawyers is almost always right”

    6. ‘one sells bikes and the other sells soft drinks…’
      Not so. Ferrari was chased by Ford because they named their F1 car F40. Nobody would mistake an F1 car for a truck. But it was Ford’s trade mark. Same thing here. Drink company is at fault.

    1. Hans (@hanswesterbeek)
      11th February 2019, 8:37

      That’s mildly interesting.

    2. I have been wondering if this is a sophisticated money laundering operation – showing money coming into Rich Energy as a result of the massive international sales they’ll claim they have as a result of F1 exposure, thereby making it legal after paying appropriate taxes.

      The only thing that gives me pause is that I don’t see how – or why – someone like Gene would ever sign up to partner Rich.

      Right now – it’s a toss-up as to which I will understand first – how Rich Energy finances itself, or what makes women tick.

      1. Gene Haas, the man who went to jail as part of a plea bargain for criminal tax evasion going into business with a company that might very well be a tax evasion company sounds about right to me.

        1. @aiii – ah, I didn’t know that. Thanks for that info.

        2. I think Rich Energy is more of a ponzi scheme, and I’m still questioning how Gene Haas is doing business with these guys.

          “Criminal” tax evasion is pretty easy to commit by accident if you’re not a president, a prime minister, a queen, or a major corporation. Ask Jimmy Carr, Willie Nelson, Lewis Hamilton, and more than a few others.

          Reading up on the case, it appears to be a case of “he said, he said”, as Haas successfully sued Philips who supposedly committed the tax fraud for bilking Haas out of $27 million. Most of the paperwork involved in the fraud had his signature, and he was labeled as an “un-indicted co-conspirator” by the justice.

          But, I wouldn’t worry about the facts too much if I were you. They might get in the way.

  2. The image at the top of the article – why are there weird splotches and streaks of gold there? I can understand a sloppy paint job, but isn’t all this car signage applied via clear stickers that have the logos printed on?

    1. Rich energy, cheap paint job. In the same way that the drinks (on Amazon) are displayed in unbranded cardboard trays. Just looks cheap.
      Perhaps a miniature rather than a real car? Those things are tricky to paint.
      If the logo doesn’t work out they could always try Ferrari-esque subliminal advertising like “Missing DrinkNow”

      1. “Missing DrinkNow”


    2. I think it might be reflections from the lights

  3. Some irony here – Jon Whyte, one of the designers of Whyte bikes and early pusher of carbon in frame design, was an F1 engineer in the 80’s.

  4. Free advertising for both companies.
    (And the WWF)

    1. I think you mean wwe! They got sued when they couldn’t give pandas steel chairs!!!

  5. Keith: can you edit the title photo for this article to show the other company’s logo as well? It is incredibly similar, I think it would help drive home why a lawsuit exists is the first place.

    1. Hans (@hanswesterbeek)
      11th February 2019, 9:49

      I wouldn’t dare to just publish the Whyte logo on here without their permission. They seem to be trigger-happy on that stuff ;-)

      1. Duh, makes sense!

  6. Rich does not concerned about legal action because they knew the plaintiff would not found the defendant entity.

  7. Apart from “Rich Energy” appearing to be all smoke and mirrors with it’s accounts that makes me wonder where the money for HAAS sponsorship is coming from, how difficult is it to tell the difference between a bicycle and a canned drink?

  8. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
    11th February 2019, 11:37

    This has been the most interesting story from the off season and I get the feeling it’s going to all come crashing down mid way through the season. I hope that the Haas employees aren’t adversely affected by this when it inevitably falls apart.

  9. Lol those logos are basically identical?

    I worry for Haas to be honest. Everything about ‘Rich Energy’ seems extremely suspicious. And honestly – I’ve never seen a single can of their drink? What does it even taste like, the website doesn’t even say.

    1. Well, according to the last page’s comments in this Autosport forum topic, someone in the UK has placed an order for one. I wonder if he’d be brave/foolhardy enough to actually sample it, though @rocketpanda

  10. I follow Whyte on Twitter, and they recently replied to this :)

    👇😉— Whyte Bikes (@WhyteBikes) February 10, 2019

  11. “I won’t use the word nonsense” I find is the best way to use the word nonsense :)

  12. Oh Gene…
    Yes he went to jail for tax schemes but the reason he felt compelled to scheme in the first place: patent infringement.

    “According to his indictment, Haas created various tax fraud schemes to help him recoup more than $8.9 million he was ordered to pay to settle a patent infringement lawsuit filed by a rival firm.”

  13. What is it about F1 that attracts so many charlatains? What was the name of that guy who kept saying he was gonna buy Lotus F1 from Genii Capital and that he was gonna prove all the naysayers wrong? This has shades of that all over again.

    1. Charlatans rather.

      1. I was thinking of Charlemagne… ;-)

  14. I hope this isn’t seen as negative press for Whyte Bikes. They make some sweet, forward thinking all mountain rigs.

  15. So not only are they not a real company, they’ve stolen their logo as well.

    So it begins…

  16. Would be respectful if you actually credited the source of information that allowed you to even write this article. ie, those of us on Autosport that dug up that court date.

    1. We always credit third-party sources of information – your assumption about where we got it from is wrong.

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