Sir Jack Brabham and his family have won legal protection in the European Union to ensure that their name cannot be used without authorisation by any other third party in motor sports.
The three-year battle in the German High Court of Koblenz started in 2009 when Franz Hilmer lodged an entry for the 2010 F1 season using the team name of ‘Brabham Grand Prix’ without the family’s involvement Although the application was unsuccessful, it alerted the Brabham family to the possible future unauthorised use of their name in future motor sports projects.
Sir Jack’s youngest son David – a former F1 driver himself who drives in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the LMP1 class at Le Mans, and who also competed in the Australian V8 Supercars Gold Coast race in 2012 – then undertook the most recent legal battle against car dealer Michael Trick who had been marketing cars in the EU under the Brabham name.
“I am delighted that the legal action brought against Mr Trick has been successful and that the rightful transfer and protection of the registered trademark is now complete and back in the family’s ownership,” said Sir Jack in a statement released by the family after the verdict was handed down. “David has been tireless in pursuing this action in the interests of the entire family.”
The ruling from the German High Court on Thursday means that the rights to the Brabham name for marketing now revert to Sir Jack’s family, and they will be alerted to any future business trademark registrations.
“I’m delighted that this situation has finally come to an end,” said David Brabham. “It’s been a long and tiring battle, but this was something I felt we needed to do to protect the Brabham name.
“The global brand stands for success and innovation bolstered from 60 years of racing heritage, and deserves to be protected,” he continued. “That respected reputation is built on four F1 drivers’ and two constructors’ titles, while the legacy has continued with myself, Geoff and Gary, adding two Le Mans victories, two American Le Mans Series titles, four IMSA GTP Championships, F3 and F3000 crowns, plus various national and international accolades across the echelons of the sport.”
The court’s ruling also protects the iconic Brabham logos which are closely linked with Sir Jack’s three world championship successes. He then created the Brabham F1 team (officially called Motor Racing Developments Ltd.) back in 1962, which was eventually bought out by Bernie Ecclestone in 1973 who ran it until 1987, with the team finally being shuttered in 1992.
David Brabham pointed out that the action was motivated in part by the need to protect the interests of the third generation of Brabhams competing in motorsport, with his son Sam having competed in Formula Kart Stars and his nephew Matthew having clinched the USF2000 championship in 2012.
However, the successful conclusion of the action is unlikely to herald a return of the Brabham name to the F1 scene any time soon, with no existing team thought to be interested in acquiring the famous marque, and no new teams on the horizon to take up the grid spot left vacant by the now-defunct HRT.