Facebook pages have become a big deal for companies, helping increase brand awareness across the globe. But it wasn’t always like that. In the early days of the social network website, fans were the ones setting up pages for brands they loved. Sammy Wasem was one of them, starting a Ferrari fan page six years ago that went on to become one of the most popular car sites on Facebook.
But Wasem is currently in a legal battle with Ferrari, filing a criminal complaint against Ferrari SpA, in which he claims copyright infringement because he lost control of the page. Ferrari has sued the Wasems, arguing they misused the company’s trademark to advertise non-Ferrari merchandise, as well as for personal messages including invitations for Wasem’s 18th birthday.
“They dared to take away a kid’s dream. They have no scruples,” Sammy Wasem was quoted as saying on Bloomberg.
However, Ferrari has a different opinion. “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 the carmaker. He added that Ferrari hasn’t been informed of a criminal complaint. In their defense, the Wasems say they made no money selling merchandise on the site.
Ferrari first approached the Wasems in March 2009 via an e-mail in which the company congratulated them for gaining more than 500,000 fans within a year of creating their Ferrari fan page. However, the company then said it was forced to take over the formal administration of the fan page because of legal issues.
The Wasems agreed to make their site the official fan page for Ferrari, but say the carmaker named managers for the site without communicating with them. They began to work on the page for Ferrari without getting the terms they wanted in writing, more specifically financial compensation to help fund Wasem’s racing career. They continued for four years, subsequently losing administration rights. In February 2013, they filed a civil lawsuit claiming compensation for more than 5,500 hours of work – that is at least 10 million Swiss francs ($11 million).
By Dan Mihalascu