A High Court ruling has decreed that Team Lotus is able to continue operating under its name in Formula 1, after the case’s presiding judge, Justice Peter Smith, ruled in its favour in its lengthy and bitter row with Group Lotus.

Would the real Team Lotus please stand up? After weeks of deliberation, Justice Smith ruled that, while Team Lotus had acted in breach of a licensing agreement with Group Lotus last year, there was no good reason why it could not operate under the ‘Team Lotus’ banner now and into the future.

But there’s a catch…

Justice Smith also ruled that Group Lotus also had the right to use ‘Lotus’ moniker in F1, as well as Renault being able to operate with its black and gold livery. He also ruled that Team Lotus must pay damages for breaching its licensing agreement with Group Lotus last year.

After Group Lotus terminated its five-year deal to use the ‘Lotus’ moniker in Tony Fernandes’ team – ostensibly for the purposes of it being able to jump ship and enter into a title sponsorship deal with the Renault team – Fernandes bought the rights to the ‘Team Lotus’ name from David Hunt, who had held ownership of the same since the original Lotus outfit closed its doors at the end of 1994.

“We are all pleased that it has been clarified that we are the rightful owners of Team Lotus,” Fernandes quoted after the outcome was revealed.

Suitably thrilled... Tony Fernandes“We have always been confident that the factual evidence we presented would lead to this decision and today’s judgment confirms that belief.

“We are of course disappointed about the decision that Group Lotus was entitled to end the licence agreement in 2010. However, my fellow shareholders and I are firm believers that when one door closes another door opens. In the early days of our agreement we realised its termination was inevitable and as events have unfolded the end of the licence has proved positive for us, with many new avenues being opened up as a result.

“We wanted to develop a long-term relationship with Group Lotus and help them sell more cars around the world but that door closed and now we are delighted that we can turn our attention to ensuring success for Caterham Cars on the road and Team Lotus on track.

“These are two very exciting brands and their future development, bringing these two iconic brands together under the Caterham Team Lotus umbrella, will see us introduce new Caterham cars and a range of new Team Lotus brands into the global marketplace.

“Now our main aim is to build on the solid foundations that has made Caterham Cars the model for how to run a profitable contemporary car company and add more history to the incredible story of Team Lotus over the coming months and years and with the people, spirit, passion and determination we have in both businesses we know that marks the next stage in our incredible story.”

Both outfits can still use the 'Lotus' name... Not surprisingly, Group Lotus isn’t happy about this arrangement, and a new wave of mud-slinging has already kicked off.

“Team Lotus has the right to continue to race in Formula 1 under the name Team Lotus but the effect of the Judgment is that only Group Lotus can use the name ‘Lotus’ on its own in F1,” a statement from the carmaker reads.

“Group Lotus is concerned that this aspect of the Judgment will cause confusion in the eyes of spectators and the wider public. Accordingly, Group Lotus is seeking leave to appeal so that the right to use the Lotus brand in Formula 1 is clarified once and for all in the interests of the sport and the fans. Group Lotus and its shareholder Proton Holding Bhd are confident of success on appeal.”

It seems like the only people who will actually be winning in this case are the lawyers…

Both sides have used the ruling to claim the moral high ground and restart their mud-throwing antics, with Team Lotus quickly releasing team merchandise for sale (the first time it has actually been allowed to), while Group Lotus is already getting its brand ambassadors to take to Twitter to bolster its position.

One such ‘ambassador’, Jean Alesi – signed to Group Lotus’ payroll despite never having had any direct history with the marque during his motorsport career – made a rare visit to his Twitter feed, writing: “Now it is sure: we are the real Lotus.”

The real Team Lotus closed at the end of 1994.

[Images via LAT and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.