I will try to be as specific as possible in this post but if you need further information on any area please ask and I will be happy to respond.
The issue: A PC racing game using the tracks from the Formula 1 motorsport series (http://www.formula1.com). We would like to remodel these tracks for use in our game engine, but with no official Formula 1 branding whatsoever on them. We would also not use their official circuit names (i.e. the circuit in Melbourne would be named Australia instead) and the only resemblance would be the physical environment itself.
Our understanding: The understanding both myself and the people who would like to work on this project have is that this is not a problem (based on example 1 at the end of this post). From the perspective of our limited knowledge we believe you cannot own a layout of buildings and tarmac (please correct me if I am wrong here) just like you cannot own the shape of a Formula 1 car itself. But... these tracks are built on private land owned by companies or governments and not by Formula 1 itself. So I would imagine if we have any issues at all it will be with the land/circuit owners and not Formula 1 (unless they want to claim that we have duplicated their calendar).
The answers we need: Firstly, is the approach we would take legal? If not, which areas are black and white and which are grey? What, if any aspect of this concept are we likely to be legally challenged on and by whom?
Real world examples of possible loopholes in this area:
- Monaco Grand Prix (Nintendo 64 Game) - Despite only having a license for one of the Formula 1 circuits (Monaco) they remodelled the entire F1 calendar track by track, naming the circuits after the host nation as opposed to the local circuit/town name as Formula 1 would. This is the model we were intending to replicate (note: we do not have a license for any circuit).
- rFactor (PC Game) - by providing a modding engine rFactor lets users re-create the circuits, drivers and teams without having a license to do so. This has not yet been challenged by anyone and I have seen examples of the real Formula 1 teams using user-created F1 mods on rFactor at live shows and demonstrations!
Any input here is much appreciated. So far (short of paying for legal advice) we have hit a dead-end everywhere we have turned.