U.S.A.:Bloodless Coup(e): Shelby says new coupe infringes on his trademark
By BOB GRITZINGER
THERE WAS ONE HITCH IN Peter Brock’s presentation of the new Brock Coupe at the recent Art Center Car Classic: His car wasn’t there.
Brock, an alumnus of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, was in town July 20 to discuss his role in the design of several notable cars, including the Corvette Sting Ray and the Cobra Daytona Coupe. But the highlight of his talk centered on his latest project— the Brock Coupe, also known as the Superformance Coupe—a redesigned version of the original Daytona Coupe he helped design and build in the early 1960s with Carroll Shelby and others.
One of the first Brock Coupes was supposed to be shipped from Cobra replica-maker Superformance’s factory in South Africa to the Art Center show in time for Brock’s speech. The plan was sidetracked July 16 when U.S. Customs in New York impounded a similar Brock Coupe because Carroll Shelby said the cars violate a trademark he acquired May 13 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the Daytona Coupe “trade dress,” or appearance.
Even though the trademark office admits it “inadvertently” issued the trademark while appeals were still pending, for now the trademark is enforceable. Shelby’s intellectual- property rights attorney, Ed Sokolski, says the car seized in New York will likely be held up by the feds for at least 30 days while the trademark commissioner sorts out whether Shelby’s trademark is valid, and if so, whether the cars in question infringe on that trademark.
The Brock Coupe battle is just the latest round in a decades-long fight between Shelby and makers of replica versions of the Shelby Cobra roadster.
A federal court last year ruled against Shelby’s claim of ownership of the Cobra roadster sports car trade dress, clearing the way for a host of manufacturers to continue building the cars, pending further appeals by Shelby (AW, Sept. 9, 2002).
The latest controversy centers on the trade dress of the far more rare and perhaps more valuable design—that of the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe. How valuable? An original Daytona Coupe discovered in a California storage garage in 2001 sold for a cool $3.75 million (AW, May 21, 2001).
Brock and Ron Kruger, Superformance’s U.S. representative, say Shelby’s claim to the Daytona Coupe trade dress is questionable because Shelby hasn’t marketed the car and has stood by quietly while several builders have produced Daytona Coupe clones. “The difference is this one will do 200 mph—it’s a pretty impressive car,” says Brock.
Shelby retorts that he has built, licensed and sold Daytona Coupes—not many, just a handful—in the past 25 years and “long before Superformance came along.”
Kruger also says Superformance’s version is not a replica, but rather is a “very fresh and new style” that bears only a passing resemblance to the Daytona Coupe. “There’s as much similarity between them as there is between an Acura and an Oldsmobile,” Kruger says.
Brock says that while there is no line on the car that is identical to the original, he promises that “if you looked at it driving down the street, you’d think it was a Daytona Coupe.”
Kruger says once the trademark dispute is resolved, he expects the Superformance Coupe to make its debut at Hot August Nights in Reno in early August, or at the latest at Monterey in mid-August.
Six cars will be built for dealer demonstrations and then production of the rolling chassis will begin based on demand. The powertrain-less cars will be priced in the mid-$60,000s.
Meanwhile, Shelby is gearing up his own South African venture, building 427 model bodies and chassis that should start arriving in the States in the next six to eight weeks.
(1st left photo)Jim Price (left) and Peter Brock with the Coupe in front of Price’s factory. Shelby says this new coupe shares styling with his Daytona of old.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....