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Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Monday, 24 January 2011

Date set for full trial in Lotus F1 naming row

A Lotus-sponsored Renault and a Team Lotus car
Group Lotus is contesting Team Lotus's rights to use the brand in F1

The row over the use of the Lotus name in Formula 1 will go to a full trial starting on 21 March, a High Court judge decided on Monday.

Mr Justice Peter Smith ruled that the dispute was going on too long and needed a resolution.

He initially said it should be resolved before the F1 season started on 13 March but the two sides eventually agreed to the 21 March date.

Car company Group Lotus and F1's Team Lotus are at loggerheads over the name.

Monday's hearing surrounded Group Lotus's decision to terminate a five-year licensing deal it had with Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes's 1Malaysia group to use the Lotus brand in F1.

Group Lotus had applied for a summary judgement - where a judge decides a case there and then and stops it going to a full trial - that it was within its rights to end its relationship with Fernandes and that he had no rights to use the Lotus name.

There are a number of other related legal cases surrounding this dispute.

Fernandes, the boss of the Air Asia airline, is also suing Group Lotus for breach of contract over its decision to terminate the licence agreement. The company has decided to sponsor the Renault team instead.

Team Lotus boss Tony Fernades and Group Lotus boss Dany Bahar
Fernandes (left) and Bahar both want to use the Lotus name in F1

And there is a separate case about the rights to use the historic Team Lotus name, which Fernandes bought from its previous owner David Hunt last year.

Hunt - brother of former F1 world champion James Hunt - acquired the Team Lotus name following the collapse of the team in 1994 with financial problems.

The full trial is expected to cover all the cases in an attempt to resolve all outstanding issues.

It means the F1 season will start with two teams with Lotus in their official titles.

Team Lotus issued a statement in response to the decision saying: "Team Lotus is delighted that we were successful at the summary judgment application hearing.

"Although this decision was never in doubt, it means that we start the 2011 season under the Team Lotus name. Whilst we expected that the judge would refuse this application, it is good to have the decision in black and white.

"We remain confident that we will succeed at the full trial and we can now focus on the challenges ahead in the 2011 championship."

We remain confident that we will succeed at the full trial

Team Lotus

The row dates back to 2009, when Fernandes was granted by Group Lotus the rights to use the Lotus name in F1 for a new team he was setting up to race in the 2010 season. The team competed as Lotus Racing last year.

In the course of 2009, Group Lotus appointed a new chief executive officer, Dany Bahar, who last year decided that the company would be better represented in F1 by sponsoring a more established team.

He convinced the board of Lotus Cars owner Proton to back his ambitious plans, which also include the launching of five new road-car models.

Bahar decided to back Renault and ended the licensing agreement with Team Lotus, claiming that Fernandes breached its terms. Team Lotus chief executive officer Riad Asmat dismisses Group Lotus's reasons for terminating the contract as "trivial".

Fernandes bought the rights to the Team Lotus name in an attempt to protect his investment in F1 when he realised he had fallen out of favour at Group Lotus.

The dispute has reached the highest levels in Malaysia, the home country of both Proton and Fernandes. Former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed intervened last year but was unable to bring an end to the situation.

It remains possible that the two sides will settle out of court before the trial begins.

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see also
Fernandes 'bullied' in Lotus row
16 Dec 10 |  Formula 1
Team Lotus abandon black and gold
12 Dec 10 |  Formula 1
Renault F1 sign deal with Lotus
08 Dec 10 |  Formula 1

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