The Ford Motor Company recently sued Autel, a manufacturer of third-party diagnostics for automobiles, for creating a diagnostic tool that includes a list of Ford car parts and their specifications. Ford claims that it owns a copyright on this list of parts, the "FFData file," and thus can keep competitors from including it in their diagnostic tools. It also claims that Autel violated the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by writing a program to defeat the "encryption technology and obfuscation" that Ford used to make the file difficult to read.
Case C-500/14 Ford Motor Company is a reference made by the Tribunale ordinario di Torino, Italy, for a preliminary ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on a matter that has been raised before the Italian courts on a number of occasions in recent years -- the unauthorised manufacture of "spare part" wheel trims bearing the trade marks of the original manufacturer in order to enable the purchaser to make sure that his purchase matches the appearance of the rest of his car. The subtle twist here is not however whether there is an infringement of any trade mark rights but whether there is a defence based on European design law.