The legal battle over the use of the Lotus name in Formula 1 hits the courts in London today but, irrespective of the outcome of the first skirmish, the matter will certainly continue to drag on until much later this year.
Team Lotus, which is owned by Tony Fernandes (LEFT), is facing a legal battle with Group Lotus over the rights to use his squad's name this season. He is not only involved in a court case over what he claims was an illegal termination of a five-year licensing deal he had to run as Lotus Racing, but he is also fighting an action from the sports car manufacturer which insists that he is not allowed to race under the "Team Lotus" banner, either.
Group Lotus is going to court today to apply for a summary judgment over the termination of the licensing deal, which it believes means Fernandes' operation – 1Malaysia Racing – is not allowed to continue using the Lotus name in F1. A judge will decide whether there are grounds for a full-blown legal case, or whether the matter is so clear cut that there is no need for one. The latter outcome is believed to be unlikely, however.
Even if the judge did decide that Group Lotus has a valid argument to prevent 1Malaysia Racing from using the Lotus name in its title, the ruling would almost certainly be appealed, forcing the court case further down the road. Fernandes said on Monday there was no possibility of the legal situation coming out of this week's court case preventing Team Lotus from racing under that name in 2011.
"Many confused about case today," he posted on his Twitter feed. "It's not about Team Lotus name who owns it, which is in November. We brought that case to prove once and for all.
"Today's case is Group [Lotus]'s desperate attempt to use their one-way unlawful termination of license agreement of Lotus Racing. Saying 1Malaysia can't use Lotus [name]. Part of post-termination clauses. So nothing changes on Team Lotus."
The court hearing is scheduled to begin this afternoon, with a verdict not expected until Tuesday.