A Swiss father and son filed a lawsuit in California State Court against Facebook and Ferrari claiming they teamed up to illegally seize control of the websites. The father/son duo gained millions of Facebook followers through their Ferrari SpA fan pages.
This is not the first of its kind. In Geneva, Oliver and Sammy Wasem sued the car company over their "Ferrari Fan Page" and a separate "Formula 1 Vision" page created in June 2008. The Wasems stated that "Ferrari wanted [their pages and] so, with Facebook's knowledge and substantial assistance, Ferrari took it." After the Wasem's created their page, Ferrari created its own page. Ferrari's page was not as popular and the company asked Facebook to give it administrative control over the Ferrari Fan Page.
In March 2009 Ferrari contacted the Wasems and said "legal issues" had forced it to take over administration of their page. The complaint alleged that after the Ferrari co-administrator was added without permission from the Wasems, the company negotiated with them about a partnership to manage thecpage and create a Formula 1 page.
In 2012, the Wasems said, Facebook notified them that they had been downgraded to content creators, and the social networking company cut off their access entirely to both fan pages last year.
The Wasem's attorney sent a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and demanded that the Wasems be reinstated. They were told by counsel for Facebook that the Formula 1 page had been taken over by hackers and their rights were restored.
Ferrari then complained to Facebook that the Formula 1 page violated its intellectual property rights. In response, according to the complaint, Facebook deactivated the page and migrated all its fans to a similar page under Ferrari's control.
The Wasems state that they have "spent countless hours adding content" and managing the fan sites. They are suing for at least half the value of the two pages they created, which they say have attracted more than 16 million fans and may be be worth anywhere from $174 to more than $1,000 per fan in advertising.'
Facebook's rules state that users can make fan pages about brands, but cannot speak for the company and "makes clear that the page is not the official page of the brand." Official brand pages must be administered by an authorized representative of the company.
The Wasems had previously filed a criminal complaint against Ferrari in Switzerland. In that suit, they claimed copyright infringement as they lost control of their site. Ferrari has also sued the Wasems claiming that they misused the company's trademark to advertise non-Ferrari merchandise. In addition, the Wasems used the site for personal messages, such as invitations for Wasem's 18th birthday.
The case is Wasem v. Facebook Inc., CIV530869, California Superior Court, San Mateo County.