• Lotus naming row

The Lotus eaters

Martin Williamson May 27, 2011
The real Lotus team owner Colin Chapman with then Brabham team owner Bernie Ecclestone at the 1973 Swedish Grand Prix © Sutton Images
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It's been a rough few weeks for the British justice system, what with judges appearing out of touch with the modern world in attempts to get a a working grasp on the world of Twitter and Facebook, and high-charging solicitors giving high-profile clients expensive but futile advice in the same area.

Today's ruling in the long-running and frankly tedious battle over the Lotus brand was another which did them no favours. After months of wrangling, during which only the two sides' solicitors profited, the High Court finally decided to do nothing. Both teams can carry on calling themselves Lotus. Or variants thereof.

Team Lotus and Group Lotus claimed victory but, as my colleague Chris Medland observed, it was like watching two blood-stained, semi-conscious boxers insisting they had won a drawn bout. Common sense would suggest both parties lick their wounds, sit down round a table, and come to an agreement. But we all know that's the one thing they won't do.

Group Lotus signalled its intention to appeal. The public - the small minority that still care - shook their heads in bewilderment while the company's solicitors paused to work out how to spend the fees that will pour their way as a result.

In the other corner, Tony Fernandes, Asia's own Richard Branson in terms of both airline and self-publicity, managed to sound for all the world as if he had won a sensational victory. Only one where he had been forced to pay damages.

A settlement may still happen if Group Lotus dig deep enough. Fernandes' passion for the name has a price.

The reality is that whoever finally emerges victorious, neither really has anything other than a tenuous link with the Lotus which was such a force in Formula One for almost two decades in the 1960s and 1970s. That entity died with Colin Chapman in 1982. All that is being fought over now is a memory.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo