F1 hit with trademark ‘infringement’ threat by frustrated Indianapolis boss

Jamie Woodhouse
Saudi Arabian GP Formula 1 paddock entrance.

The Formula 1 paddock entrance.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles has warned they are “prepared to take every measure possible” over an alleged fresh example of Formula 1 infringing on their ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ trademark.

Formula 1 has enjoyed immense growth in popularity under the stewardship of American firm Liberty Media, with the United States a key success story, evidenced by the appeal of Netflix’s Drive to Survive docuseries and the increase to three United States-based rounds on the F1 calendar.

However, not all attention they are capturing in America is positive, with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of IndyCar’s iconic Indianapolis 500 event and former host of the United States Grand Prix, seeing repeated instances of F1’s marketing infringing on theirs.

IMS warns F1 over ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ trademark

Hulman & Company, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until 2019, first trademarked this ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ tag in 1986, which, as reported by the IndyStar, put Boles back on high alert after an ESPN advertisement for the F1 2024 campaign featured an announcer referring to F1 as “the greatest spectacle in motorsports.”

This has reopened a wound for IMS as back at the 2023 Miami Grand Prix, during the driver introductions led by rapper LL Cool J, he too referred to F1 as “the greatest spectacle in motorsports.”

Liberty meanwhile promoted the inaugural Las Vegas GP as the “the greatest racing spectacle on the planet”, to occur in the “sports and entertainment capital of the world”, for which they were apologetic, served as a further example, with IMS also trademarking ‘Racing Capital of the World’.

But this latest apparent case of a near-copy has triggered a clear warning from Boles that they “are prepared to take every measure possible” to protect their trademarks from those that “can’t create their own brand identity”.

“We are aware of the use of our mark in what appears to be a broadcast promotional spot,” Boles’ statement to the IndyStar began.

“We will once again address it with the appropriate people and are prepared to take every measure possible to protect our brand’s intellectual property.

“It continues to be disappointing that others can’t create their own brand identity without infringing upon ours.”

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Formula 1 is not alone in the alleged trespassing, as the IndyStar reports that NASCAR released a social media post referring to their Daytona 500 event as “The greatest spectacle in racing.” This was subsequently deleted, with Boles accepting it may well have been an “honest mistake” after a chat with NASCAR president Steve Phelps.

Clearly F1 though is burning its bridges in Boles’ eyes, who stressed the importance of keeping on top of all perceived infringements.

“You have to enforce it every single time,” he insisted.

“Sometimes people give us a hard time when we shut down a mom-and-pop company, but if you don’t shut [them] down, and someone like F1 does this, then you have no standing to shut them down.”

The F1 2024 calendar once more features three stops in the United States, with the Miami, Austin and Las Vegas GPs part of a planned record 24-race schedule.

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