Steve McQueen Heirs Sue Ferrari for Millions

A Ferrari Berlinetta. (Photo via Pixabay.)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The heirs of actor Steve McQueen have sued Ferrari for millions of dollars, claiming it knowingly violated trademark by selling an “extremely limited edition” called “The McQueen,” at a much higher price than a standard Ferrari.

Steve McQueen was the highest-paid actor in the world in the mid-70s, according to his son’s July 30 lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. He was known for his love of car and motorcycle racing as well, epitomized by his roles in the movies “Bullitt,” “Le Mans” and “The Great Escape.”

Chadwick McQueen, the actor’s son, said he toured the Ferrari factory in 2011 with the company’s president and chairman, and they discussed working with Ferrari on a special McQueen edition, “provided he and his family would maintain approval rights and involvement in the project.”

McQueen says that his family was “shocked when they learned, in 2017, that Ferrari had, without notice or authorization, begun marketing and selling a special edition Ferrara that Ferrari entitled ‘The McQueen,’ and that Ferrari marketed through use of Steve McQueen’s persona.”

He says Ferrari did it to promote the 70th anniversary of the Ferrari brand, and advertised it on the Ferrari website, on social media and in a brochure that featured a photo of the actor with a Ferrari. “The McQueen” was one of only four special-edition Ferraris the company exhibited at the 2016 Paris Motor Show to announce the 70th anniversary collection, according to the complaint.

Ferrari ad as it appears in the McQueen family’s lawsuit.

When the McQueen family complained, they say, Ferrari merely renamed The McQueen “The Actor,” and continued to advertise in ad copy that says Steve McQueen owned a Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta.

They seek statutory damages of $2 million per violation of registered trademark, plus punitive damages.

To buttress their claims, they cite several sports cars that sold at enormous prices because of their association with Steve McQueen:

  • a 1970 Porsche 917K featured in “Le Mans” sold for $14 million in August 2017, “the most expensive Porsche ever sold”
  • a vintage Ferrari 275 GTB/4 once owned by McQueen sold for $10 million in 2014
  • a 1968 Ford GT40 used in “Le Mans” sold for $11 million in 2012, the most ever paid for a Ford

Co-plaintiff is the trustee of the Terry McQueen Testamentary Trust, for the benefit of Steve McQueen’s granddaughter, the daughter of his late daughter Terry.

The McQueens are represented by Keith Wesley, with Browne George LLP.

The complaint was published to Courthouse News subscribers after office hours Tuesday. None of the parties could be reached for comment before office hours Wednesday.

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