MotoGP: Drive M7 responds to Team Aspar claims

Malaysian energy drink company says that possible European copyright infringement suit was reason for pullout, and that Team Aspar had full knowledge of concerns and failed to respond

motogp drive m7 responds to team aspar claims

Although the racing surely overshadowed all the other happenings at Qatar, one of the pre-race stories has risen to the surface with some interesting new developments. The day before practice was to begin for the Qatar MotoGP event, Team Aspar's owner/manager Jorge "Aspar" Martinez revealed that the team's main sponsor, Malaysian energy drink company Drive M7, had suddenly and inexplicably withdrew its near-€2 million Euro/year sponsorship just before the race weekend. It was later found that Drive M7 had actually informed Martinez by email a month before of its intentions to withdraw sponsorship, with Martinez seeking legal counsel since that time to determine options, and hiring a Malaysian law firm to handle the mess.

In a response to an email query by bikesportnews.com, Drive M7 sent an email that explained the company's reasoning for withdrawing sponsorship from the Aspar team. The Malaysian company stated in the email that both it and the Aspar team were served a legal notice of trademark infringement in Europe in June 2014 due to the usage of the "Drive" mark in the Drive M7 branding, and all details of the cease-and-desist order were fully known to the Aspar team. Drive M7 then goes on to state that the Aspar team assured it that the team's lawyers would deal with the situation, so Drive M7 continued its sponsorship deal for the rest of the 2014 season, paying a sum of about €1.8 million Euros to the team for the year's sponsorship.

The email states that the contract with the Aspar team was for 2014, with an option for renewal for 2015 and 2016; since there was no communication of official withdrawal of the cease-and-desist notice, Drive M7 says there were no communications on commencement of the option to renew for 2015. The email also states that, "There were negotiations for a fresh sponsorship for 2015 season wherein reciprocal obligations were agreed including inter alia appointing Messrs. Jorge Martinez Aspar and Facundo G. De La Cuadra from the ASPAR TEAM as the exclusive distributor for the energy drinks in Europe and European Union based on various assurances from them and ASPAR TEAM. These reciprocal obligations are not fulfilled to date and hence no sponsorship are finalized or can be taken to be finalized in so far as DRIVE M7 SDN BHD is concerned for 2015 season."

The email concludes with, "DRIVE M7 SDN BHD refutes any suggestions that they pulled out the sponsorship at the last minutes. We wish ASPAR TEAM the best in their endeavours and the good relationship we had enjoyed."

The email itself is below:

DRIVE M7 SDN BHD wishes to clarify the controversy as portrayed in the Internet and blogs with regard to its previous sponsorship of the ASPAR TEAM by the brand trademark “DRIVE M7 ENERGY DRINK”.

DRIVE M7 SDN BHD had a sponsorship agreement to sponsor the ASPAR TEAM in the MOTOGP World Championship in 2014 in consideration of ASPAR TEAM carrying the livery of the “DRIVE M7 ENERGY DRINK” trademark. The agreement was for the season 2014 with separate renewal options for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The sponsorship was for 18 races of which 11 were for races in Europe and European Union territories for the year 2014.

In June 2014 in the midst of the 2014 season a legal notice to cease and desist was served on DRIVE M7 SDN BHD and ASPAR TEAM by a firm claiming trademark stating that continued use of the “DRIVE” mark in Europe and European Union would be trademark infringement and threatening legal action in the European Union, full details whereof are known to ASPAR TEAM.

ASPAR TEAM assured DRIVE M7 SDN BHD that their lawyers would attend to this issue. On this assurance, DRIVE M7 SDN BHD continued and completed the sponsorship for the 2014 season. A sum of about EURO 1,800,000.00 was paid to ASPAR TEAM in satisfaction of the sponsorship for the 2014 season.

Further there was no notification of the official withdrawal of the legal notice of June 2014, advised by ASPAR TEAM to DRIVE M7 SDN BHD. DRIVE M7 SDN BHD has been a responsible supporter of sports and racing sports and places great emphasis on respecting trademarks and intellectual property. In the premises inter alia there was no sponsorship arrangements concluded in so far as DRIVE M7 SDN BHD is concerned for the 2015 season. There were negotiations for a fresh sponsorship for 2015 season wherein reciprocal obligations were agreed including inter alia appointing Messrs. Jorge Martinez Aspar and Facundo G. De La Cuadra from the ASPAR TEAM as the exclusive distributor for the energy drinks in Europe and European Union based on various assurances from them and ASPAR TEAM. These reciprocal obligations are not fulfilled to date and hence no sponsorship are finalised or can be taken to be finalised in so far as DRIVE M7 SDN BHD is concerned for 2015 season.

ASPAR TEAM has recently initiated notice of legal action and DRIVE M7 SDN BHD has responded to the said notice. As there may be impending legal proceeding, DRIVE M7 SDN BHD does not wish to add further, suffice to say that DRIVE M7 SDN BHD will do the necessary to protect their interest.

DRIVE M7 SDN BHD trusts for the present this presents a fair and necessary response to the controversy that has been raised in the Internet blogs and press statement. We regret that ASPAR TEAM has issued press releases without giving DRIVE M7 SDN BHD an opportunity to add their comments to such releases.

DRIVE M7 SDN BHD refutes any suggestions that they pulled out the sponsorship at the last minutes. We wish ASPAR TEAM the best in their endeavours and the good relationship we had enjoyed.