Another "Mustang" Business Gone Forever
I'm sorry to have to write about the Ford trademark issue again, but if you're a Ford enthusiast like I am, if you bleed Ford Blue like I do, then this will make your Ford Blue blood boil! Ford has won another battle in the "Trademark Wars" and forced another Mustang business to change their name. Right after we went to print with the last Restomod Corner in Mustang Monthly Magazine and Mustang & Fords Magazine, Donald Farr, the editor of Mustang Monthly, sent me an e-mail and told me that Chris Francy, the owner of Mustang Tuning ( www.mustangtunning.com) in Pennsylvania had bowed to Ford's legal pressure and changed their business name to American Muscle ( www.americanmuscle.com). I had been following this battle for several months and I know that Chris did not bow to Ford pressure without a fight. In fact, the last time I talked to him, he told me that he had spent thousands of dollars trying to resolve this problem; at first to reason with Ford and then to actually fight Ford in court in two states. So he did not bow to Ford's legal pressure without putting up a considerable, and expensive, fight.
But What Has Ford Won? So Ford has won another battle and forced another small business that was dedicated to a Ford brand, the Ford Mustang, to become a generic auto parts business. It really baffles me. Chris is a true Mustang enthusiast who spent his hard earned cash to start a "Mustang" business, not a generic auto related business where Ford and GM products are sold side by side. When Chris advertised his company, it was not only his company that benefited, the Mustang trademark and the Mustang hobby benefited as well. But that won't happen in his future advertisements. I guess it's time for chest pounding, hand slapping and high-fiving by the attorneys at Ford. But the question remains, why? Why is Ford shooting their own soldiers in the back while they're in a battle to save Ford Motor Company as a company? That brings us back to why are they doing this at all? Usually when you win a battle, you win something. Those in control demand that you win something. But in this case, you have to ask, what have they won? Yes, they've stopped someone from using one of their trademarked names, but what did Ford win in return? That's the question that's got me scratching my head. How does this help Ford? How does this put revenue into the Ford coffers to help them get out of the hole they've dug for themselves? It must be a smart business move or Ford wouldn't be doing it, right? But I still don't get it.
What Has It Cost Ford? This trademark issue has cost Ford millions of dollars. While we stop to think about how it helps Ford to have businesses stop using their trademarked names, let's look at the other side and see if we can understand what Ford is giving up by approaching this problem in the way that they have. The first thing I think of is the enormous cost to both parties for even being involved in such a battle. So far, I'm aware of approximately 50 companies that have bowed to Ford's legal pressure and changed their names. This money, millions of dollars to date, if spent on actual day to day business or just saved by both, could be something that really helps both businesses. Maybe millions of dollars is just a drop in the bucket to Ford. But to a small business, this money can mean the difference between staying in business or closing the doors. In any event, massive amounts of money are being spent by both Ford Motor Company and their targets which are the small businesses that have promoted Ford's trademarks in the past. This also effects you, the hobbyist, as well. We all know what cost does to prices. Cost drives prices up. We also all know who ultimately pays for these cost. The consumer. In this case, it will be in the cost of Ford vehicles and in the Ford licensed products prices bought from aftermarket suppliers. The effects of these cost will be felt by the entire Ford hobby.
Free Advertising. The second thing I think of is the free advertising dollars that Ford, and the Mustang hobby, are going to lose. Why is the Mustang the only true muscle car left out of all the muscle cars? I have to believe that a large part of the reason for it is because you can't turn around without seeing "Mustang" in print or on the internet everywhere you look. But if you look at who is doing the advertising, most of it is being done by companies like Mustangs Plus and not by Ford Motor Company. Ford Motor Company advertises their new models and little more. If the Mustang were to be discontinued tomorrow, so would 99% of the Ford Motor Company Mustang advertising. I believe that Ford trademarks benefit not so much from Ford Motor Company advertising, but because companies like Mustangs Plus keep these trademarked names alive by advertising and selling products for the Ford cars that Ford Motor Company no longer sells or supplies products for. I believe that if the Mustang dies, so does all of Ford's advertising for the Mustang car and the Mustang trademark. That is, unless they bring back a retro model like the Thunderbird which Ford was able to do. Not because Ford Motor Company kept the Thunderbird trademark alive, but because businesses such as Thunderbird Headquarters kept the Thunderbird trademark alive. As I see it, in the long run, the advertising by companies using Ford trademarked names in their business names has probably been more responsible for the value in many of Ford's trademarked names then any advertising that Ford recently has done. When was the last time you saw a Ford ad for anything pertaining to the Ford Fairlane? Yet Ford will tell you that the Fairlane trademark is a valuable asset. It is because there are Fairlane businesses and clubs that keep the name alive. But, not for long.
Loss Of The Ford Brand Loyalty. The third thing I think of is the brand loyalty that Ford is going to lose. If Ford is successful in making everyone change their names, there will be very little, if any, brand loyalty left to Ford. At least, not the way there is today. This relates to sales not only to customers who own the classic Mustangs but to all new lines of Fords. Speaking from experience, companies like Mustangs Plus who use "Mustang" in their company names, would usually buy new Ford vehicles for their business vehicles and for their personal vehicles. After all, how would it look for a Mustang parts dealer to pull his trailer to an event with a Brand X truck? Or for the family to vacation in an import? And what about the hobbyist who are Ford brand loyal who have learned that from companies like Mustangs Plus? They tow their show cars and racecars with Ford trucks. They drive Ford vehicles as their every day transportation. The wife has her Ford Expedition, the husband has his F-350. Their children drive to college in a Focus. The types may be different, but the fact is the same. They are a Ford family. They display the Ford logo and the Ford trademarked name of their choice on the trailers that they haul their pride and joy to shows with. They wear Ford's trademarked clothing to show their brand loyalty. But when there are no more "Mustang" dealers, brand loyalty will drop like a stone in the river. Ford will have to compete for these past customers business the same as they have to compete for everyone elses business. The family vehicles, the tow vehicles, work vehicles. A complete market, all but gone. So Ford will have to go back and find a way for their new policy to recapture the sales and brand loyalty lost from this segment of the market. As I said at the beginning, if you bleed Ford Blue, your Ford Blue blood should be boiling!
We Can See The Results At General Motors. The fourth thing I think about is that this has already happened at General Motors. Years ago, they forced businesses to stop using their trademarked names such as Camaro and Firebird exactly like Ford is trying to do now. GM was successful in stopping businesses from using the Camaro and Firebird and all other GM trademarked names and what did it get them? Where are the Camaro and Firebird and all of the other GM cars that competed with the Mustang in the pony car wars? Gone. What's the value of the Camaro and Firebird trademark today compared to the Mustang trademark? I don't even know how you would compare it today. Ford should have looked at what GM was doing and knew that they were being handed the pony car market on a silver platter because GM had made such a terrible blunder. But instead of capitalizing on GM's goof, what does Ford do? They try to copy it! Amazing! But in the long run, we're the one's, the hobbyist, that are going to suffer from it.
What does the future hold? The fifth thing I think about is the future. What will happen to our hobby if Ford is successful in rubbing out all of the Mustang dealers? Let's take a trip into the future and say that in 5 years, Ford has been successful in stopping everyone from using "Mustang" as well as their other trademarked names, in their business name. Like Chris Francy, everyone changes their business name to something generic. Something like Pony Cars Plus. Oops. Sorry. I forgot. "Pony" is one of Fords trademarked names so we can't use it. Hmmm. So is "Stang". We can't use that, either. Well then, let's say that our business name in 5 years is something like American Cars Plus. This name has nothing at all to do with Mustangs which is what Ford wants, according to their attorneys. When American Cars Plus is advertised, when people hear it from their friends, when they see it on a sign, when they find it on the internet, how are people who I'm trying to attract as customers going to know that I'm a Mustang only parts shop? In most cases, they're not. When customers e-mail or call American Cars Plus 800 line and ask if we sell Camaro parts, or Mopar parts, or Volkswagon parts, it's going to cost me time and money to tell them that we don't. So where is the incentive for me to sell only Mustang parts? There is none. It's just a matter of time before I'm going to start doing what business dictates and that's going to be to sell parts for any and all American cars, just as my name indicates. My customers will be asking for them because I can't advertise a name that let's them know my business identity. If automotive businesses can't use their name to attract their customers, then the days of the hobbyist relying on a specialist for their classic Ford product is all but over. All of these businesses lose their identity and that's their loss. But Ford loses all of their indentities which is like losing soldiers in a battle. Soldiers that can't carry your flag anymore.
Is This The Way We Want Our Hobby To Be In The Future? So, let's recap. Ford forces all other businesses to stop using their trademarked names in their business names and benefits by being able to say that they have successfully stopped everyone from infringing on their trademarked names and have enforced their trademark rights. But for every action there is a reaction and in this case, Ford's victory has cost them in several ways. Number one, it's cost them million of dollars in lawsuits; number two, it's cost them millions of dollars in lost advertising dollars because these businesses are no longer spending their advertising dollars to promote Ford's trademarked names; number three, it's cost them who knows how many dollars in new car sales because a large part of the brand loyalty that Ford had built up over the past 100 years has evaporated into thin air; number four, it proves that GM made a huge mistake by doing the same thing years before and number five, it's made it much more difficult for the hobbyist to find the parts they need to restore and enjoy the classic Ford vehicle of their choice. Sounds like a great deal for Ford, and for the hobbyist, don't you agree? I started this rant off by saying that if you're a Ford enthusiast like I am, if you bleed Ford Blue like I do, then this should make your Ford Blue blood boil! I know it really does mine! Not so much because Ford is doing it, but because it's the lawyers that are getting rich off of it, not Ford Motor Company. It hurts Ford Motor Company and there's no rewards, that I can see, for doing it other than for them to be able to say they're enforcing their rights. It's like watching someone that you care deeply about doing something that you know is bad for them and being powerless to stop them from doing it. When we started Mustangs Plus 25 years ago, we chose to be a "Mustang" first business. Our goal was not to build a business based on all classic cars. It was to build a business based on the cars that we loved and appreciated. And that car was the Ford Mustang.
A Simple Solution. By the way, there is a very simple solution to this problem. The solution is for Ford to approach all of the businesses that are using one of their trademarked names and have each business sign a waiver that says that they, the business owner, understands that Ford is allowing them to use their trademarked name in their business name as a descriptive instrument only, not as a license to produce any products that infringe on Fords trademark rights; the exception being advertising items bearing the companies complete name expressly for the purpose of promoting the business and it's name. With this simple agreement, Ford would have a policy in place that would build good will with most all of the businesses that they are at odds with; both now and in the future. There should be no fees involved, Ford should not have any say as to the running of the business except to make sure this agreement is followed, and this agreement should be offered to every business that's using one of Ford's trademarked name's in their business name as long as they have a business license and are a true business, not just someone who is simply using one of Ford's trademarked names for their own profit. By doing this in a professional and respectful manner, Ford would have a plan and a program for dealing with this infringement issue that would bring the hobbyist back to their side and help them find and prosecute those people who are harming Ford, as well as their customers, by willfully infringing on Ford. Also, Ford would again benefit by businesses advertising their trademarks as well as their businesses but with a policy and agreement in place that makes good sense for both
It's Ford's Move. So what do you say, Ford? Can we work
together? Mustangs Plus has never wanted anything but the best for Ford Motor Company and
the Ford Mustang. Can we agree to turn this into a win/win situation for both of us or
will Ford Motor Company continue to hurt the very businesses that have help to keep their
trademarks alive? Let's change it from "Bold Moves", where Ford boldly forces
small businesses to knuckle under, to "Loyal Moves" where Ford shows loyalty to
the small businesses that have helped to keep their trademarks, the Ford trademarks, alive
by allowing them to continue running their businesses with Ford's encouragement and
Until Next Time,