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Haas suing Steiner over alleged “Surviving to Drive” infringements

Haas Automation, the parent company sponsor of its Formula 1 outfit, is now suing former team boss Guenther Steiner for alleged trademark infringements in his “Surviving to Drive” autobiography.

Guenther Steiner, former Haas Team Principal and TV Presenter

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Just a few days after it emerged that Steiner was taking Haas to court in North Carolina for non-payment of commissions he says he is owed, it has become known that Haas has launched its own legal action in California.

In court papers lodged in the Central District of California, Western Division, Haas argues that Steiner and his publisher Ten Speed Press acted unlawfully in publishing images that it believes breached trademark rules.

Haas’ document alleges: “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.”

It said that it had made Steiner aware of its concerns but had not received a satisfactory response, which is what prompted its legal action.

“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,” the papers added.

“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 the defendants and has asked the court for a trial by jury over the matter.

The court papers argue that Haas owns several federally related trademarks for its CNC machine tools business and motorsport activities, and it lays out the photographs in the book – including the front cover – that it claims are unlawful.

Steiner and Haas parted company at the end of last year after his contract was not extended.

He had been with the Banbury-based squad since its formation in 2016 and had become a cult figure in F1 circles thanks to his appearances in the Netflix: Drive to Survive series.

If the California court action goes ahead, then the key issue that will likely need to be evaluated is whether Steiner and Ten Press’s use of the images could be considered fair use.

Fair use does permit individuals and publisher to use other’s trademarks without consent for a variety of purposes, including commentary, criticism, news reporting and comedy.

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