You could be forgiven for thinking that the biggest thing going for the surname Hamilton is the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned musical, a blockbuster of both stage (back when theaters were open) and screen (via a release on Disney+). But that would be a myopic view of both the world and pop culture, one that excludes the larger world of culture and sport. And in the interest in broadening all of our horizons, we're heading across the pond and into the cockpit for today's IP news.
Lewis Hamilton, the now seven-time world champion of Formula 1 racing, suffered what must feel an uncharacteristic defeat at the hands of the European Union Intellectual Property Office in a trademark case spanning three years. Hamilton was evidently looking to leave open the possibility of a future trademark filing on the word "Hamilton", which is understandable given his stature in the racing world. But Hamilton, to his misfortune, doesn't share as unique a last name as his contemporaries Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikonnen, and a trademark on "Hamilton" had previously been filed by a Swiss watchmaker named Hamilton International.
Now the EUIPO has ruled in favor of the Swiss brand, to the exclusion of the driver. In its favor Hamilton International had the fact that the company had existed since 1892, albeit in Lancaster, Pennsylvania until its move to Switzerland in 2003. The EUIPO's ruling also notes that no figure is guaranteed the right to a mark on their last name, particularly when the name is as common as Hamilton.
Nor did the court determine any bad faith on the part of Hamilton International, which, it should be noted, has as much right to seek a trademark as any other business, even one so prominent as the winningest driver of his age.
It's perhaps surprising, given how long he's been a successful driver, that Hamilton and his team hadn't filed for a trademark previously, but it's a brave new world in which athletes are as much brands as they are performers. Not necessarily a bad one, though, particularly given the new class of stars that use their platforms for good and worthy causes. And besides, trademark or no, it seems like Lewis Hamilton will be fine, with a reported salary of £40 million to go with the overstuffed trophy case. Come to think of it, Hamilton International can keep the trademark; I'll take Lewis' lot in life, IP deficient though it may be.