Classic cars have long been changing hands for prices that would not be out of place in the fine art world. Now a Bologna court has ruled that Ferrari's classic 250 GTO model is a work of art, granting a protection that means only Ferrari can produce, commercialise and promote its most expensive vehicle.
In Italy an industrial design work can also receive copyright protection when it has a creative character and an artistic value (article 2, num. 10 of Law n.633/1941 - Italian Copyright Law). In order to assess whether the design meets these criteria, it is the work in its entirety that must be evaluated from a creative and artistic point of view. The latter element is evaluated not by the court on a subjective basis but by considering the views of industry experts.
The Ferrari 250 GTO is arguably Ferrari's most iconic vehicle and certainly its most valuable. Only 36 were made between 1962 and 1964, each with their own ownership and race history, and the most recent auction sale record for one of these models last August was $48.4 million. I count myself as very fortunate having acted for clients who have owned one e.g. negotiating the loan of the sole 250 GTO displayed at the Design Musuem's Ferrari exhibition in 2017 and acting for the purchaser of a previous world record private sale in 2012.
By gaining copyright protection, the Ferrari 250 GTO will now benefit from a longer protection period (i.e. 70 years after the author or creator's death) rather than the 25 years it had as a registered design right. Both Ferrari's purported creators of the 250 GTO (Giotto Bizzarrini and Mauro Forghieri) are still alive, granting Ferrari a monopoly over this model for the foreseeable future.
But why would Ferrari want to prohibit a small local company in Modena full of enthusiastic mechanics from producing replicas of its famed vehicle? Well, the so called "new-classics" market is reportedly booming with Jaguar venturing further than its painstaking £1 million reproduction of the E-Type to its stunning new E-Type Zero (an identical replica of the E-Type with an all-electric powertrain conversion). Other marques are reportedly considering following suit and it would not be a surprise to see Ferrari enter that market, particularly given it has now just protected the jewel in its crown.
Image courtesy of RM Sotheby's
“It’s the first time in Italy that a car has been recognised as a work of art,” a Ferrari spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph. “It’s not just its beauty that makes it special – it also has a long racing history.”