By now you know how much I love the Coca-Cola brand and advertising, and this beautiful gem of a billboard is no exception:

What I’m left wondering is whether consumers might view this as a co-branding campaign between Coca-Cola and Ford, and whether Coca-Cola felt the need to obtain permission from Ford to depict the back half of a candy red 1966 Mustang convertible (the detail to the left of the wheel was the give away for me on make and model, in case you’re wondering).

No Ford logos are visible, but there is enough of the vehicle shown for at least certain consumers to recognize it as a Ford Mustang convertible, whether or not they can identify the year.

We had to dig deep into the DuetsBlog archives to find our discussion of a similar billboard ad featuring the front portion of a Chevrolet Corvette in a Schlitz Beer advertisement: Using Another’s Body to Sell Your Products? The Problem of Airbrushing Non-Traditional Trademarks.

Let’s assume no permission was obtained, since no logos from the vehicle are visible, but what are your thoughts about whether Ford can control the use of this much of a classic Ford Mustang to help sell another’s products? And, if Ford has enforceable rights, does this constitute fair use?

  • Great post, Steve, and I, too, also enjoy the Coca-Cola billboards. This one, however, seems to go over the line because the car is, without a doubt, a member of the Ford family. Will all the talk in social media circles about obtaining permission to use images, how could such an internationally-known brand not ask for Ford’s permission? Shouldn’t there have been either a disclaimer in the billboard, or even better, evidence of co-branding (i.e., Open for Summer – Open Happiness – Coca-Cola…Your Ford convertible awaits)?

  • stevebaird

    Hi Debbie, not sure whether permission was obtained, but if so, it could have been made clear, as you point out, in a creative way, and not left us wondering:)
    I thought this might be a nice segue for your guest post tomorrow!

  • Steve, great post. I remember you presented at the Midwest IP Institute a 2012 TTAB case where a section 2(d) refusal was based on the design elements of the C-scoop on Ford’s Shelby GT. I also remember asking if seeking registration of that non-traditional mark was for licensing to Hot Wheels or video games, for example. This post provides yet another reason to register and potentially license such marks!