Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart
Mini Article – Volume 21, Issue 11
DeLorean Trademark Battle Heats Up
Many readers will recognize the name DeLorean and instantly think of the stainless-steel body and gull-wing doors of the time machine from the Back to the Future franchise. Some readers may even recall the scandals that embroiled the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) and its founder, John DeLorean, a Detroit native.
As the story goes, the DMC was founded in the early 1970’s, with the manufacturing of the company’s only model, the DeLorean, in war-torn Belfast, Ireland in the 1970’s and 1980’s, with the company’s subsequent insolvency after manufacturing only 9,000 vehicles, with John DeLorean’s attempt in 1982 to infuse the company with cash allegedly made by trafficking cocaine, with his arrest, trial, and acquittal on the drug charges, and with his 1985 indictment and acquittal on charges of defrauding investors and tax evasion. The long version involves super models, government incentives, personal bankruptcy, and the sale of 434 acres of the DeLorean estate to Donald Trump to be converted into a golf course.
By 1982, the DMC was bankrupt, and a number of businesses emerged to provide parts and services to DeLorean vehicles that were still on the road. One business, the “DeLorean Motor Company” — based in Humble, Texas, and apparently not related to the original DMC — purchased surplus and aftermarket parts and obtained U.S. trademark registrations for various stylized DMC logos, as well as a UK trademark for DELOREAN.
Now, Ty DeLorean, a man from Cornwall, UK, claiming to be John DeLorean’s son, has started building and selling DeLorean-styled vehicles. Ty modifies three-wheeled Reliant Rialto vehicles to resemble DeLorean vehicles by outfitting them with gull-wing doors, a brushed-aluminum finish to resemble the DeLorean’s stainless-steel body, DELOREAN and DMC logos and badges, and — of course — a “flux capacitor” device from the movie Back to the Future. Ty calls the vehicle the DMC-21, an homage to the DMC-12, which was the name of the DeLorean prototype. Although the DMC dropped the DMC-12 name before production, deciding instead to call the vehicle simply “DeLorean,” many enthusiasts still refer to the DeLorean as the DMC-12. Check out images of the DMC-21 HERE.
After showing off the DMC-21 at the British Auto Show in this past August, Ty received a hand-delivered notice from the DeLorean Motor Company’s attorney threatening legal action due to Ty’s alleged infringement of the DeLorean Motor Company’s UK trademark registration through his unauthorized use of the DeLorean logo. The letter further accuses Ty of attempting to “pass off” his business as being sponsored or affiliated with the DeLorean Motor Company.
Ty appears to welcome the publicity. He has given several interviews and has teased the idea of proving his lineage with a DNA test, despite his alleged father having passed away in 2005. At this time, it does not appear that the DeLorean Motor Company has actually filed a lawsuit, but Ty seems ready to battle it out in court and is confident that he will win. Perhaps Ty has inherited his father’s luck in the courtroom on top of his dad’s his love of cars.
Published November 5, 2021
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