Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

GM sues Ohio company for rare 'Vette replicas

5 posts in this topic

GM sues Ohio company for rare 'Vette replicas

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

The 1963 Corvette Grand Sport roadster is the rarest and arguably most important Corvette model ever made. Only five were built, and they sell for millions at auction.

But an Ohio company is being sued by General Motors for churning out replica versions that sell for less than $90,000.

The lawsuit was filed this month in U.S. District Court against Mongoose Motorsports LLC of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which specializes in building replica 1984-88 GTP models and the legendary Grand Sport.

The lawsuit is a bid by GM to protect valuable and lucrative trademark rights to an iconic brand beloved by auto enthusiasts, and it sheds light on a niche industry.

GM is suing for trademark infringement, claiming the iconic brand has been irreparably harmed by the ersatz sports cars, which the automaker says copy the Corvette's design -- curve for curve.

"This is not an homage," GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said.

GM wants a judge to bar the company from making and selling models using the Corvette design; order the destruction of all labels, signs and ads bearing Corvette trademarks; and let GM inspect Mongoose's office and financial records. GM also wants unspecified financial damages.

Mongoose's Web site is a parts bazaar where enthusiasts can buy a Corvette Grand Sport rear emblem for $99.95, or an entire replica sports car. But Mongoose is not licensed to use the Corvette trademarks, according to the lawsuit.

Mongoose operations manager Gary Krause Jr. was unaware of the lawsuit until being contacted by The Detroit News.

"That's news to me," he said during a brief phone interview. "I really would rather not go into any detail."

His company couldn't have picked a rarer Corvette to replicate.

GM initially planned to build 125 for competition in world championship racing, according to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky.

But in early 1963, GM Chairman Frederic Donner canceled production after five had been built.

One of the five Grand Sports was listed at auction in January 2009 but the top bid of $4.9 million fell short of the reserve price, according to RM Auctions. The auction house later sold the roadster privately.

"They're unique cars. Hand-built, special-bodied," said Greg Wallace, spokesman for the GM Heritage Center. "It's probably the most valuable Corvette there is."

GM sells licenses to companies to build everything from replica vehicles to belt buckles. It is a lucrative revenue stream, Wilkinson said.

One company is licensed to build the 1963 Grand Sport.

Duntov Motor Co. in Texas has an exclusive deal to produce authentic 1963 Corvette Grand Sports, starting at $189,000. They build about four a year.

The company's Web site prominently displays the GM logo, designating it as an official licensed product, and acknowledges other unlicensed companies build Grand Sports -- but hints at a crackdown.

"We have been told these unauthorized manufacturers will be dealt with by the GM legal team," according to the Web site.

There are a number of companies worldwide that sell replica vehicles with varying legality.

Antique & Collectible Autos Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y., sells replica 1967 Cobra roadsters, but does not use the Cobra name or trademark.

"You can't do that," said Sonny Sajak, who is in charge of the company's sales.

For a while, the company sold replica Jaguars after obtaining the rights from the automaker.

"So it wasn't an issue," Sajak said.

Dennis Brunton of Bradenton , Fla., sells vehicles inspired by the Lotus 7 roadster. He designs each fiberglass part, rather than making a mold from existing Lotus 7 bodies. So there are significant differences between his model and the original.

Brunton's vehicles are bigger and longer, though they resemble the original Lotus 7.

"When you look at it, you know it when you see it," he said.

There is a legal principle guiding Brunton's approach, he said.

"My attorney described to me that if there's a spot on Bradenton Beach, a particular view, I cannot go there, make a picture of that view and say it is my intellectual property," Brunton said. "You have to go there and paint your own picture. You cannot stop anyone from making a car that looks similar, as long as they make it themselves."

On the Mongoose Web site, the company touts similarities between its replica and the original Corvette Grand Sport: "The GS frame, designed by Altair engineering, one of the largest aircraft-engineering firms in the country, replicates the original GS design, utilizes the suspension from 1988-96 Corvettes, with fully adjustable front and rear coil over shocks."

At the bottom of the Web site, in small print, it reads: "It is neither inferred nor implied that any item offered by Mongoose Motorsports is a product of, authorized by or in any way connected with any vehicle manufactured by General Motors. The Trademarks Corvette, Stingray, Chevrolet, GM and the Corvette emblems are Trademarks of General Motors Corporation."

GM pursued legal action against Mongoose because Wilkinson said the company is copying the Corvette's specific design and challenging the automaker's trademark.

"If we don't enforce this, we can lose control of our various trademarks," Wilkinson said.

From The Detroit News:


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Mongoose is only a 5 miles from me and used to be G & S cars about 2 mile from me before the were sold and enlarged.

Grand Sports here are a common sight on the road and these cars are done right. The only thing Grand Sport on them is the body styling and nothing else. There is little chance anyone who looks at one of these would confuse it for an original. IF they do than they deserve what they get.

GM get a lot out of these cars as most are built and sold with GM crate engines and new Corvette C5-6 suspensions. These cars make GM a lot of money for doing nothing but selling parts at a local dealer. I have see these with stock Vette engines to 572 BBC. You can buy them part built or turn key.

I suspect this will be settled with a agreed license and fee paid to GM. I would like to think it is only about the rights more than the money for GM. It is not like it cost them anything money wise but if a poor quality kit they have little say other wise.

I see the GTP cars now and then. They drive them on the roads and they have the stone chips to prove it. I would love to have one painted in the original Goodwrench colors. Nothing like a street legal looking IMSA GTP for the street.

They had better not kill this car as it does GM more good than bad. It kind of makes up for the 120 GS GM never made.

I remember Tim Allen came in to buy one a few years back. These cars beat the hell out of the now too often seen Cobra kit cars.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

i actually have a pic of one of these cars from the food lion auto fair last year. the car was insane and would rattle your guts when it drove by. this one had an airbrushed ww2 theme.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

It could be money.....

How much money do you think GM would get out of a company this small. This is not a case where there are 72 companies making Grand Sport kits like the Cobra.

It is all about control and use of the image not money. I suspect they will come to an agreement that for a price that would cover the legal fees incured by GM they will get the right to use this image.

If GM lets them do what ever even if it is positive who is to stop the next group from doing something worse and if you said nothing in the past the judge tosses you out of court defending your conpany.

Even my company has had to stop a cheap toy companies that stole our graphic and the image of our name on a toy race car and hauler. They changed the name just a little. We don't make much if anything on any on the toys and diecast with our image but we can stop the cheap crap that makes us look bad. Most of the items are fine but it is good to be able to say no when needed.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   You have pasted content with formatting.   Remove formatting

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0