MALVERN, England - The European Trade Marks Registry has granted legal protection to the shape of the UK-built Morgan sports car. No other manufacturer or replica company can now copy the Morgan shape without being taken to court.
Morgan's is believed to be the only car shape accepted by the Alicante, Spain-based registry as qualifying for legal protection under European Union trademark law. Registration has taken two years and costs have been 'significant,' said Richard Callaghan, partner in trademark lawyers Barker Bretell, who handled the process.
Famous shapes previously registered internationally include the original Coca-Cola bottle, the three-sided Haigh Dimple whisky bottle and the Baby Bio plant food bottle with its long neck and bulbous base.
'Registering a shape as unique and not merely a result of its function is not at all straightforward,' said Callaghan. 'The Philips Philishave three-headed electric shaver recently lost its registered status after a court challenge on the grounds that it was not creative or decorative but a result of mechanical necessity.
'The Morgan's basic styling dates from the 1930s, and does not have to be the shape it is,' said Callaghan. 'We have had to persuade the trademark registry that the Morgan shape is well known throughout Europe, and Morgan is the only company making that shape. This protection is not granted lightly.'
At the Geneva motor show in March, Morgan unveiled its new Aero 8 model. The Aero 8 is designed to define the Morgan shape for the future, while retaining the traditional relationship between the swept-back S-wings, the grille and the long hood.
'I do not think there are many car shapes manufacturers would want to protect,' said Callaghan. 'There are a lot of stylish cars around, but after four or five years they are replaced. The Morgan is in a very special category.
'Without this protection it is very difficult to stop someone copying our shape. We can't stop someone making up a kit car that looks like a Morgan, but selling it is another matter.
Morgan Motor Co. sales director Matthew Parkin said the move had been defensive rather than offensive.
'We have not done it to clamp down on anyone in particular, though we understand that there are small firms in Switzerland and Turkey that produce Morgan lookalike cars, and we can prevent such cars being sold in Europe.'
'We really want to be in a position to stop our car becoming another Cobra or E-type, which have both been replicated several times,' said Parkin. 'We are now in a position to do something about it if someone claims to have a Morgan replica.'