Haas’ turn to sue Guenther Steiner as break-up turns nasty

Thomas Maher
Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner, Haas, 2023.

Guenther Steiner is being taken to court by Haas Automation.

The bitter split between Guenther Steiner and Haas continues, as the American company is now taking the former team boss to court.

Recently, it emerged that Steiner has taken the Haas team to court in North Carolina over non-payment of commissions he believes he’s owed, and Haas’ response has been to launch court action of its own against the former team boss.

Guenther Steiner facing legal action by Haas

Steiner, who had been team boss for Gene Haas’ eponymous team between their arrival in F1 in 2016 and December 2023, parted ways with the American squad over the winter as the two sides opted not to continue working together.

This was over a fundamental disagreement over the direction the team should be taking, with Steiner replaced by Ayao Komatsu in the role of team boss.

Aside from making it clear that he and Haas had disagreed on how to take the team forward, Steiner didn’t comment negatively on his experience of being replaced or of the years working with the squad.

But, months later, it emerged that Steiner has taken Haas to court for money he believes he’s owed, although the exact amounts have not been known.

Just a few days after this became public, the divorce became more acrimonious as Haas responded by filing a claim in California over a trademark issue related to his book “Surviving to Drive”.

Filed on May 3rd, the complaint has been made against Steiner and Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, the  publisher of his book, with the case lodged in the Central District of California.

Haas’ argument is that Steiner and Ten Speed Press unlawfully used and displayed Haas Automation Trademarks, as well as Haas Automation Trade Dress, for personal gain and illicit profit and had not been given permission or consent to do so.

Represented by attorney Marina Lang, Haas’ claims say that “In 2023, without permission or consent from Haas Automation, Steiner authored, marketed, promoted, sold, distributed, and profited from a publication titled “Surviving to Drive” (the “Accused Product”), which unlawfully used and displayed, and continues to use and display, the Haas Automation Trademarks and the Haas Automation Trade Dress for Steiner’s personal financial gain and illicit profit.

“Haas Automation never consented to Steiner’s use of the Haas Automation Trademarks or the Haas Automation Trade Dress on the Accused Product.”

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The court documents claim that Steiner took no action to rectify the situation when notified that court action may be on the cards.

“Haas Automation gave pre-lawsuit notice to Steiner but to date Steiner has taken no action to cease or mitigate his infringing acts, necessitating the instant lawsuit,” they read.

“Steiner sells and promotes the Accused Product in various mediums, including – without limitation – print and digital, in violation of Haas Automation’s exclusive intellectual property rights.

“Information available online indicates that as of January 2024, the Accused Product has exceeded sales of at least 150,000 units and generated revenue of at least $4,500,000.”

Haas is seeking damages from Steiner over the use of their images and trademarks and has requested a trial by jury over the case – arguing that with several federal trademarks for its CNC machining and motorsport activities, their use in the book is unlawful.

Should the matter make it to court, the argument will likely come down to whether Steiner and Ten Press’s use of the images could be regarded as fair use.

Both Haas and Guenther Steiner declined to comment on the matter when approached by PlanetF1.com.

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