The row over the use of the Lotus name in Formula 1 will go to a full trial starting on 21 March, a High Court judge decided on Monday.

Mr Justice Peter Smith ruled that the dispute was going on too long and needed a resolution.

He initially said it should be resolved before the F1 season started on 13 March but the two sides eventually agreed to the 21 March date.

Car company Group Lotus and F1’s Team Lotus are at loggerheads over the name.

Monday’s hearing surrounded Group Lotus’s decision to terminate a five-year licensing deal it had with Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes’s 1Malaysia group to use the Lotus brand in F1.

Group Lotus had applied for a summary judgement – where a judge decides a case there and then and stops it going to a full trial – that it was within its rights to end its relationship with Fernandes and that he had no rights to use the Lotus name.

There are a number of other related legal cases surrounding this dispute.

Fernandes, the boss of the Air Asia airline, is also suing Group Lotus for breach of contract over its decision to terminate the licence agreement. The company has decided to sponsor the Renault team instead.

And there is a separate case about the rights to use the historic Team Lotus name, which Fernandes bought from its previous owner David Hunt last year.

Hunt – brother of former F1 world champion James Hunt – acquired the Team Lotus name following the collapse of the team in 1994 with financial problems.

The full trial is expected to cover all the cases in an attempt to resolve all outstanding issues.

It means the F1 season will start with two teams with Lotus in their official titles.

The row dates back to 2009, when Fernandes was granted by Group Lotus the rights to use the Lotus name in F1 for a new team he was setting up to race in the 2010 season. The team competed as Lotus Racing last year.

In the course of 2009, Group Lotus appointed a new chief executive officer, Dany Bahar, who last year decided that the company would be better represented in F1 by sponsoring a more established team.

He convinced the board of Lotus Cars owner Proton to back his ambitious plans, which also include the launching of five new road-car models.

Bahar decided to back Renault and has now ended the licensing agreement with Team Lotus, claiming that Fernandes breached its terms. Team Lotus chief executive officer dismisses Group Lotus’s reasons for terminating the contract as “trivial”.

Fernandes, a Malaysian businessman who runs the Air Asia airline, bought the rights to the Team Lotus name in an attempt to protect his investment in F1 when he realised he had fallen out of favour at Group Lotus.

The dispute has reached the highest levels in Malaysia. Former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed intervened last year but was unable to bring an end to the situation.

It remains possible that the two sides will settle out of court before the trial begins.


courtesy of www.bbc.co.uk/sport