Dutch double Formula 1 Champion Max Verstappen started karting at a young age and quickly showed his talent by winning several championships in the Netherlands and Europe. As a son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen and multiple karting champion Sophie Kumpen, there was no doubt Max would be something special when he entered the sport.
In 2014, Max made his debut in single-seater racing, competing in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. He finished third in the championship in his rookie year and continued to impress the following season, winning the championship with ten race wins. He quickly continued to establish himself as one of the top drivers in Formula 1 with multiple race wins and podium finishes to his name along with his now two FIA World Drivers’ titles.
Launching “Max 1”
Along with his success on the track, the Verstappen family’s ambition to exploit max’s name in the fashion industry hit the rocks last week as Nike, the global sportswear giant, has effectively stopped him from launching his own sportswear range. Nike successfully argued that Max Verstappen’s clothing brand “Max 1” is a direct trademark infringement of their “Air Max 1”, a popular line of limited edition sneakers produced by the company. On hearing that Verstappen had applied for a trademark for the “Max 1” range, Nike immediately launched legal action, saying that the F1 driver’s brand threatened their exclusive right to the “Air Max One” brand that was already trademarked.
Being one of the top drivers in Formula 1, Max Verstappen makes lots of money driving his car but it’s pertinent to note that it’s Verstappen’s dream to make even more money through entrepreneurship. Now, at least on the clothing front, this may not materialise unless he finds a new name for his “Max 1” range. Clearly this fiasco wouldn’t have happened had he done his trademark due diligence and researched the name before trying to launch it!
While you might not be as lucky and talented as Verstappen to make money from sport as an athlete, you can also earn indirectly from sporting events as a bettor. This is where punters and sports betting tips platforms can come in handy. For instance, a platform like MightyTips offers you a fantastic range of sports betting tips and recommendations that can enhance your winning chances.
Trying to capitalise on his status as the current Formula 1 World Champion, Verstappen decided to launch his own sporting brand that deals in the sale of vintage and stylish t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, shoes, hats, and many other fashionable clothing merchandise and gift ideas, using his first name and position in the sport, “Max 1”, as his identity, to multiply his net worth but met with resistance from one of the topmost competitors in the clothing industry over simple trademark issues.
According to the Nike, the name of Max Verstappen’s brand is capable of confusing Nike’s reputable customers, who may mistake their merchandise for the defendant’s. The Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) sided with Nike, agreeing with their case that the similarities between the names “Max 1” and “Nike Air Max 1” would constitute trademark infringement. As this was a case of Verstappen applying for his own trademark, the F1 driver only had to pay Nike minimal costs instead of huge penalties had he launched his range without a trademark. And the amount he had to pay Nike in legal fees..? Well that was just €1,045, or about as much as he earns between the start line and the first corner…
After the decision reached by the BOIP, the Red Bull driver is yet to publicly address the press. Nevertheless, it is reported that the news has left him devastated and crushed the hope of having his brand named after him and his achievement as the number one driver in Formula 1.
It is yet to be known what new name the sportswear brand would take (if he decides to change it), or perhaps he would ditch the idea of owning a Max Verstappen merch brand to focus on other things.
Similar cases of brand protection
Apart from this case, there have been similar cases of brand protection in the past. A few of them are highlighted below:
1. Adidas vs. Skechers:
In 2016, Adidas sued Skechers for trademark infringement, claiming that Skechers’ “Onix” and “Cross Court” shoes infringed on Adidas’ iconic three-stripe design. The case was settled out of court, with Skechers agreeing to stop selling the shoes in question.
2. Gucci vs. Forever 21:
In 2017, luxury fashion brand Gucci sued Forever 21 for trademark infringement, claiming that the fast fashion retailer had copied several of Gucci’s iconic designs. The case was settled out of court, with Forever 21 agreeing to stop selling the disputed products.
3. Burberry vs. Target:
In 2018, luxury fashion brand Burberry sued Target for trademark infringement, claiming that Target had copied its signature check pattern on a line of clothing and accessories. The case was settled out of court, with Target agreeing to stop selling the disputed products.
4. Nike vs. Puma:
In 2019, Nike sued Puma for trademark infringement, claiming that Puma had copied its Flyknit technology in a line of shoes. The case is ongoing, with Nike seeking an injunction to prevent Puma from selling the disputed shoes.
Reactions from the racing community
The racing community has been somewhat divided over the news of Max Verstappen’s proposed clothing brand’s woes. Some fans have taken to social media to extend their best wishes to the popular Formula 1 driver in the hope that he gets another befitting name for his brand.
Others have decided to make a mockery of the situation, branding the F1 champion “a cheater” in an effort to criticize his actions on track while making demeaning remarks about the name “Max 1,” asking if he is always going to have the number 1.
The fashion industry is particularly vulnerable to trademark infringement, as names, designs, and logos can be easily copied and reproduced. As a result, many fashion brands take trademark protection very seriously and will go to great lengths to protect their intellectual property.
Hence, the rationale behind the legal battle between Max Verstappen’s proposed clothing brand and the veteran fashion brand Nike. The incident underscores the need for athletes and their partners to carefully navigate the legal landscape surrounding trademarks, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property.
For now, launching Verstappen’s stylish brand has been put on hold. The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of respecting intellectual property rights and ensuring that any branding or marketing efforts are fully compliant with relevant laws and regulations. While the outcome of this particular case may be disappointing for him, it can serve as a valuable lesson for all athletes and their partners on the importance of legal compliance and due diligence in brand building.