Lawsuit Over Shelby And AC Cobra Naming Rights Finally Settled

Industry News / 6 Comments

Here's what happened and how it was resolved.

AC Cars has been forced to drop its pursuit of trademark infringement against high-end vehicle dealer and importer Clive Sutton in the UK over the use of the Cobra and Shelby Cobra monikers.

In May 2022, Acedes Holdings, which operates the AC Cars brand, brought a claim against Clive Sutton, alleging that the vehicle specialist violated trademark infringement. Acedes Holdings sought an injunction preventing Clive Sutton from using the iconic Shelby Cobra name and brand. It seems AC Cars didn't want Shelby's name being used to steal potential customers.

Acedes Holdings' group company also claimed that these Shelby Cobra vehicles infringed on designs registered in the United Kingdom. However, Clive Sutton - with the help of Carroll Shelby Licensing and Superformance - defended the claim and even filed a counterclaim.

According to Clive Sutton, Acedes had no choice but to withdraw its claims last month when "faced with Carroll Shelby's legacy and clear facts regarding the ownership of the Cobra brand."

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"Our customers and partner businesses are delighted by the outcome of the case. The Shelby Cobra has a rich heritage, and we are delighted to be able to offer these models to our enthusiastic and knowledgeable customers in the UK," said CEO and founder Clive Sutton. "Receiving the backing of Carroll Shelby Licensing highlighted the historical significance of the brand to both companies, and now we're keen to present these special sports cars to our customers without restriction," he added.

As a result, Clive Sutton is now the sole authorized importer of replica and continuation Shelby Cobra cars in the UK. "Furthermore, the registered designs for the Cobra's exterior were found to be incorrectly registered by Acedes Holdings and were subsequently revoked," added Sutton.

But the story doesn't end there. Several publications report that AC Cars is also claiming victory, with a High Court judge reportedly dismissing Clive Sutton's claim that challenged the automaker's rights to the AC Cobra trademark in the UK.

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The Cobras sold by Clive Sutton reportedly start in life as bodies produced in South Africa before being shipped to the United States, where they're fitted with their V8 engines.

While AC Cars retain the UK trademark for AC Cobra, Clive Sutton is authorized to use the Shelby Cobra name for the replicas it sells.

"We are delighted with the judgment, as it vindicates our desire and commitment to protecting our trademarks and intellectual property and not to allow imitators of our products to benefit from our heritage," said David Conza, CEO of AC Cars.

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Clive Sutton caters to UK customers who require the very best high-end vehicles. But it has a unique edge, offering Cadillacs, Ford Mustangs, modified F-150s, and even Hummer EVs to discerning buyers. Now, the company can continue to provide car enthusiasts in England with a fully licensed, high-quality Cobra replica.

Earlier this year, AC Cars revealed its latest iteration of the iconic roadster. Known as the Cobra GT, it's powered by a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 sourced from the Mustang GT and is available with either a six-speed manual or ten-speed automatic transmission.

Two states of tune will be offered, with the base model producing 454 horsepower. A supercharged variant with 654 hp is also available. Just 250 examples are destined for production, making it very rare. However, it's not as rare as Classic Recreations' Cobra Diamond Edition, of which just ten units will be produced.

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