Lewis Hamilton vs. Hamilton Watch Company

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IWC sponsors Lewis Hamilton - watch news

Regular readers will recall that the Swatch Group – which owns the Hamilton brand – lost their trademark infringement lawsuit against Vortic, makers of “up-cycled” wristwatches. Vortic is back to selling modified Hamilton pocket watches and Swatch was back in court defending itself against F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, of all people. This time Swatch won. Talk about a no-brainer . . .

After a three year legal battle, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) threw out a cancellation application against the Hamilton Watch Company by Mercedes’ main man. Lewis Hamilton the driver sued Hamilton the watchmaker to stop Hamilton the watchmaker from trademarking the name “Hamilton” in Europe.

Hamilton Railway Special pocket watch

Given that Hamilton has been selling Hamilton watches since 1892 (albeit switching to Swiss ownership in 1972), the fact that the F1 stud’s application to the EU Court managed to survive this long is beyond imagination. But not beyond money, obviously.

Lewis Hamilton is worth some $285m. But not forever, if his handlers enable this is the kind of legal and financial stupidity. From a PR point-of-view, you’d think that his official watch sponsor, IWC, would have moved metaphorical mountains to strangle their “ambassador’s” legal action in its crib. Which they probably did. To no avail.

Hamilton Murph grey

“The contested mark consists solely of one word ‘HAMILTON’, and not ‘LEWIS HAMILTON’,” the court ruled. “It is a rather common surname in English-speaking countries . . . There is no ‘natural right’ for a person to have his or her own name registered as a trademark, when that would infringe third parties’ rights.”

What’s more, “Even the cancellation applicant explicitly accepted that the contested mark ‘HAMILTON’ had been used since 1892, i.e. even before the date of birth of ‘Lewis Hamilton’ as a natural person.” Ninety-three years before the Hertfordshire-born driver left his mother’s birth canal.

Where did Lewis Hamilton come up with this cockamamie filing in the first place? When Lucille Ball sued the Ball Watch Company? Oh wait . . .

The Court’s ruling won’t ding Mr. Hamilton’s racing career. One wonders more about the Hamilton Watch Company’s future. Under Swatch’s stewardship, Hamilton has been making its money selling retro-style mechanical timepieces for under a grand – the exact market where the smartwatch is kicking all kinds of ass. The next gen can’t even read an analogue watch.

Gold Hamilton PSR

The recently released Hamilton PSR – an LED watch harkening back to the boom-and-bust ’70’s timepiece that ended Hamilton’s American adventure – could well be a horological harbinger of doom. In other words, Hamilton may have won the battle – protecting the exclusive right to make Hamilton-branded products – but they look set to lose the war.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hamilton is a weird brand. I love my vintage L.L. Bean Hamilton 33mm 9219 field watch, but when it bites the dust, I’d rather buy a cheap Timex field watch. Paying $300 for a brand new 40mm Hamilton field watch defeats the purpose of the shabby chic ethic, at least as applied to a field watch.

  2. I don’t really follow F1, but wow… I know Hamilton is a talented driver, but I didn’t realize he was that stupid. He must have paid his lawyers a huge retainer, so they could ignore what anyone with a modicum of knowledge about trademarks (raises his hand) would have quickly pointed out. First use usually wins that game. Similarly, you can’t trademark common words. What a dolt.

  3. Yes, this is really stupid on the part of Mr. Hamilton, but you guys need to do some proofreading on yapper articles before posting. It’s Lewis, not Louis!

  4. So while embracing BLM and striving to become the point man in Europe for social change while playing up his own personal “victimhood” Mr. Hamilton was demanding a 120 year old company pay for daring to have the same name as him. It’s good to know my disdain for him is not without merit.

  5. Unfortunate news for my potential lawsuit against Timex for infringing on my username.

    “Under Swatch’s stewardship, Hamilton has been making its money selling retro-style mechanical timepieces for under a grand – the exact market where the smartwatch is kicking all kinds of ass.”

    The bought and paid for watch media has been spreading the idea, championed by the Swiss watch industry, that because of smart watches mechanical watches have to cost $1,000+. The Swiss watch industry has used that logic to arbitrarily increase the price of watches that have no business costing more than $1,000. But it does not hold water. If smart watches reduce the wrist time that mechanical watches get that is going to hurt a $5,000 mechanical watch more than at $500 mechanical watch. The less wear time a watch gets, the less value it provides, the less it has to cost.

    The reason that the sub-$1,000 Swiss watch category has been hit the hardest is that most of those watches are not mechanical watches, they are dumb quartz watches that have no purpose or value in the smart quartz watch era. What the Swiss need to stay relevant is more sub-$1,000 mechanical watches.

  6. “Hamilton may have won the war – but they look set to lose the war.” You mean, won the BATTLE but lost the WAR.

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