Ferrari is being sued by the family of Steve McQueen over the use of his name in a special edition car.
Back in 2016, Ferrari celebrated their 70th anniversary by creating 350 special edition cars: 5 models each wearing 70 different liveries that celebrated some of Ferrari’s most famous former drivers. Ferrari brought four of those designs to the 2016 Paris Motor Show. One of those was a very special California T called the “The McQueen”.
There was no doubt as to which McQueen Ferrari was referring to. They used McQueen’s photo on the car’s advertising and explained the car’s particular shade of brown as being the color of McQueen’s own 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso gifted to him by his wife.
It’s all well and good to use a dead celebrity to sell your products, but typically there are living relatives that own the trademarks to said dead celebrity and they want to get paid. Ferrari, evidently, didn’t contact McQueen’s family before creating and selling their special edition California T, and now that’s landed them in legal hot water.
According to legal documents uncovered by The Hollywood Reporter, Steve McQueen’s son Chadwick McQueen and the bank holding his family’s trust are suing Ferrari for “for trademark infringement, false endorsement, and misappropriation of the right of publicity.” The suit was filed in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles on July 30th and alleges that Ferrari used Steve McQueen’s likeness to advertise and sell their cars without the family’s consent.
The docs also explain that Chadwick met with Ferrari’s chairman back in 2011 to discuss working on a special edition car and that Chadwick agreed so long as the family would retain final approval. When they found out the car had been created and released without their knowledge or consent they were “shocked”.
After contacting Ferrari to remove the McQueen name from their California T the Italian supercar maker renamed it “The Actor”, but still made reference to McQueen in the car’s advertising.
McQueen is demanding $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in statutory damages per registered trademark. Ferrari has yet to make an official response to the complaint.