Despite comments yesterday by Group Lotus boss Dany Bahar that two Lotus teams on the Formula 1 grid would not necessarily present a problem, the team which hopes to race as "Team Lotus" next year indicated Thursday that a court battle between the two companies over naming rights was likely.
Tony Fernandes' team, which competed under the Lotus Racing name this year came into conflict with Group Lotus when the latter ended its licensing agreement and disputed Fernandes' right to use the name Team Lotus, which Fernandes bought from former Team Lotus owner David Hunt. Fernandes had indicated last month that he might be willing to surrender the name to avoid a prolonged court fight, but after yesterday's announcement that Group Lotus had entered into a partnership with Renault F1 – and would compete in a black and gold color scheme similar to that which "Team Lotus" planned to use – Fernandes and his team principal Mike Gascoyne had vowed to fight to keep the name. On Thursday, team's chief executive Riad Asmat said in an interview with the Malaysian national news agency, Bernama, that he expected the dispute will proceed to London's High Court.
"I think that will be fair to everyone and the courts will explain everything to everyone," he told Bernama, adding that he disputes the claim of Group Lotus that its corporate parent – Malaysian manufacturer Proton – holds all rights to the Lotus brand.
"They [Proton] said they own the name. Well we own the name 'Team Lotus,' that is why we are racing as Team Lotus."
Asked whether there is a legal distinction between "Lotus" and "Team Lotus," Asmat answered, "Yes, there is a big difference in terms of ownership."