AC Cars victorious in AC Cobra legal challenge

10 August 2023 | David Young

Acedes Holdings, LLC, together with AC Cars (England) Ltd ("AC Cars"), a related entity of AC Cars, has successfully defended itself from an unwarranted legal case brought by Clive Sutton Limited

AC Cars victorious in AC Cobra legal challenge

Clive Sutton challenged the famous British marque's rights to its UK registered AC Cobra trade mark.

Dismissed by the High Court of Justice, the case resulted from a dispute relating to the London dealer importing imitation models in late 2021 and early 2022 and advertising cars as 'Cobras'. The resulting counterclaim by Clive Sutton Limited alleged that AC Cars' trade mark of the AC Cobra name was invalid because of Ford Motor Company's claimed prior rights, and due to non-use by AC Cars.

From December 2021 until April 2022 Clive Sutton Limited advertised imitation cars as 1965 Cobras, which were in fact recently manufactured cars made in South Africa with the bodies exported to the USA for the engines to be installed. These cars were then registered in the USA as kit cars, in the year of the car that they represented - which is legal in the USA.

UK rules state that all cars must be registered in the year in which they were manufactured. If any vehicle is imported as a historic vehicle, different rules apply in terms of certification, VAT and Duty.

The London based dealer sought to have the AC Cobra trade mark expunged from the trade marks register, but these claims were rejected in the final ruling by his Honour Judge Richard Hacon. During the case Clive Sutton Limited was supported by both Carroll Shelby Licensing, Inc and Superformance LLC, both of the USA.

As the legitimate owner of the AC Cobra brand in the UK for all cars, AC Cars will continue to fiercely protect the authenticity of genuine AC-badged cars, and the investment its customers make. The company will fight imitators or companies passing products off as genuine, to keep the heritage of the Britain's oldest active vehicle manufacturer intact.

David Conza, Chief Executive Officer of AC Cars said: "We are delighted with the judgment, as it vindicates our desire and commitment to protecting our trade marks and intellectual property, and not to allow imitators of our products to benefit from our heritage. However, more importantly we are protecting our customers who own genuine AC Cobra cars. We have invested heavily in the development of new products, including the recently announced AC Cobra GT Roadster, and there will be other models following this car."

The true home of the AC Cobra, AC Cars has this year underlined its ownership of the famous name with the reveal of the AC Cobra GT Roadster. The sensational new model is a modern sports car, produced using the latest technology and engineering processes, yet it remains faithful to the spirit of the AC Cobra of the 1960s.