America's nascent Formula One team has changed its name from the compact and comfortable USF1 to the bundled barbed wire mouthful U.S. Grand Prix Engineering.
Conflict over use of F1 takes the blame. Formula One Licensing BV, one of three companies comprising the Formula One Group of Companies at the heart of the sport's commercial rights, holds trademarks on an F1 logo, a "sweeping curves" depiction used in television broadcasts, and the terms F1, Formula 1 and Formula One.
Incorporating F1 into its team name by USF1 trod on a trademarked term. Oh, and why not US Grand Prix? Not in use at the moment, but obviously the would-be name of a national race in the series. But hold the phone, "grand prix" is trademarked by Formula One Licensing BV, too. The American team's name change will necessitate a logo redesign.
Force India was asked to change its logo when the design came too close to the trademarked versions. Renault and Toyota use F1 in their names but the offense is ameliorated by inclusion of the word "team" after the F1 reference. Williams F1 stands alone via a grandfather rights sort of arrangement; the name predated the current commercial arrangement of the Formula One universe.
The American team made eight days of existence before hitting this stumbling block. One of two partners co-founding the team, Peter Windsor, a Briton, has worked in the sport since 1972. He has watched the development of Formula One into a worldwide corporate money-spinner as journalist and as team insider. He might have known F1 as part of a team name would be a no-go. But the only notice of name change came via the team's website, now collecting e-mail messages at www.usgpe.com. As stated at a Feb. 24 live television announcement of existence, the team has no headquarters for its chosen base, Charlotte, N.C., let alone a press officer to manage name-change news. Thus, no comment from USGPE, nee USF1.
The hiccup comes as naysayers have labeled the American effort doomed from the start. Partners Windsor and Ken Anderson proceeded with starting a team in the face of global economic distress two months and 20 days after Honda, the second-largest carmaker in Japan, abandoned its Formula One team. Their stated hope was to take advantage of fiscal changes to the sport, changes on a tectonic scale that stand to lower the operating costs of teams to a level that will let private entrants who are not billionaires once more field teams.
Team principals meeting this week in Switzerland will announce in a news conference Thursday their additional ideas to slash costs. They previously agreed to stop in-season testing and to reduce wind-tunnel time. They hope to reach agreeable budgeting levels to avoid having them imposed by sanctioning body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA).