Ferrari is facing a court battle in Switzerland due to alleged copyright infringement over taking over a Facebook fan site. If the suit is successful, it could cost the company millions and harm its reputation on social media.
Sammy Wassem started the Facebook fan page for Ferrari when he was 15 and eventually grew it to over 500,000 followers. In 2009, the company congratulated him on the site’s success, but said that “legal issues” forced it to take over the administration, according to Automotive News Europe. Wassem could still use the site, but managers had oversight.
Wassem asked Ferrari for financial compensation to keep working on the page but continued creating content on it for the next four years. Eventually, the company terminated his administration rights. In 2013 he and his father Olivier filed the lawsuit against the business alleging it owes payment over 5,500 hours of work and copyright infringement for taking over the page. They are asking for $11.3 million.
Ferrari is counter-suing them for misusing the company’s trademark, including allegedly advertising other merchandise on the page and using it to send invitations to Sammy’s 18th birthday.
“The issue isn’t with Facebook or with our fans but with those who try to use Ferrari’s intellectual property to make money out of it,” said Stefano Lai, a spokesman for Ferrari to Automotive News Europe.
The case highlights the difficult balance companies have to maintain with social media. Even if Ferrari is right, the fallout from lawsuit could be a loss of fans.