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Company Trademarks Name Of Town, Sues Firm For Selling Souvenirs

from the sturgis dept

Sturgis, South Dakota, is nominally a relatively small town. It has a population under 7,000. However, in August every year, it's home to one of the biggest and most famous motorcycle rallies in the world -- when somewhere around half a million people (and motorcycles) descend on the area. It's quite famous for the rally, which has been going on for more than 70 years. However, something's not right in Sturgis this year.... And -- wouldn't you know it? -- there's an overreach of intellectual property to blame. Apparently the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc (SMRi), the organization that runs the event, has decided to trademark "Sturgis" and sue local vendors for selling souvenirs -- a huge part of local business in Sturgis.

Now, you can see why the company that runs the rally might want to own the name of the town -- which is certainly associated with the rally. But it's still the name of the town. Rushmore Photos & Gifts, the one vendor that SMRi has sued so far, is counter-suing, and claiming that the trademark is "based on a lie." Other vendors, though, are living in fear. They don't want to speak out and call more attention to themselves, they've taken products off their shelves, but they're hurting financially by not being able to sell products with the name of their own town on them.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    I love how biker gangs are getting in on the copyright scam. isn't it kind of a dead giveaway that copyright is nothing more than legalized extortion(kinda like the police) when gangs of extremely violent drug cartels with a penchant for motorcycles start using it in their racketeering schemes?

     

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  2.  
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    Don, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    What? Isn't a town already a corporation. And can't the town take action. This is just dumb.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:19am

    Ooh....

    Ooh has anybody taken a trademark out on the City of New York yet? Dibs if not

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:20am

    This is the way it should be

    They didn't file, they shouldn't get any of the benefits. What reason would the organization have to continue putting on the festival if this didn't happen?

     

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  5.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:21am

    Re:

    Hey, they only learned the trick from the RIAA.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:22am

    Re:

    You stupid freetard. This is the way the law works. Since it is law, it is right.

     

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  7.  
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    Kaden (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:22am

    Re: This is the way it should be

    Sarcasm, right?

     

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  8.  
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    Kaden (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:25am

    Re:

    The Sturgis event has very little to do with bike gangs... it's more of an event for week-end warriors and midlife crisis guys to go to to feel edgy.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Never, freetard! These guys are just exercising their right to profit from a festival that they put on. You don't have the right to profit from that! You don't have the trademark!

     

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  10.  
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    JayTee (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re:

    "Since it is law, it is right."

    I can understand why you might say that but do you not see the bigger picture where the law may be badly written or in fact wrong all together.

    Just because there are laws does not mean those laws are correct.

     

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  11.  
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    rooben (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    And I have a trademark on the term freetard, so you are now infringing on my trademark. Please cease and desist using the term.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    The town should cancel the rally altogether since they can't make any money from it, and then this STUPID company can take their name elsewhere.

     

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  13.  
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    LemmingHerder, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not... I really want to believe something so blatantly stupid is sarcasm, but I just saw a person throw themselves off a balcony trying to catch a baseball.

    Arrrrgggg my brain is melting.

     

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  14.  
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    JayTee (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Do you not see something wrong with the fact that a company can trademark the name of a town?

    The name of the town existed before the company did.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Except for the fact that Sturgis, the city, incorporated in 1888 and last I checked, it's not illegal to sell merchandise with a communities name (city, town, state, etc)on it.

    It's somewhat similar to "CSI" vs the "CSI: Las Vegas" stuff you see in Vegas.

    Note, I am only talking about the word Sturgis. Other phrases like "Sturgis Biker Weekend" and other phrases mentioned in the linked article are protected trademarks and should be enforced.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re:

    IDIOT!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They were voted on by people smarter, richer, and better looking than you. Therefore, they are right.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    The town didn't apply for a trademark.

     

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  19.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    again,

    Sarcasm, right?

     

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  20.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:47am

    More info on SMRi

    Like a lot of IP abuse, it always starts out as something that's supposed to benefit many people (or at least is stated that way), but it always seems to end in lawsuits (article from roughly a year ago):

    Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc., a nonprofit organization, has been formed to protect the intellectual property rights of the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_31d7d7ec-8bc0-11df-9d6f-001cc4c002e0.html

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    If they were planning on people using the name of the town in commerce, they should have applied for a trademark and either negotiated licenses with businesses.

     

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  22.  
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    Some Other AC, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    In reply to your comments here, this one and the previous one, just because it is the "law" does not make it right/just. This organization is capitalizing on a "law" that has needed major overhaul for a very long time. Name calling and generic blanket statements do not lend weight to your arguments.
    Considering the length of time that this Festival has been running and the likely time frame that the businesses being bullied have been selling merchandise related to the Sturgis Rally, this trademark would be invalidated if any or all of the vendors would hit back with any reasonable legal counsel supporting them!
    Please bring valid arguments/comments to the discussion or crawl back into your little basement and keep worshiping the corporate gods you have plastered to your walls.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Why do you people think I'm being sarcastic?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re:

    FUCK MY SARCASM DETECTOR IS MELTING

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You win the internets for the day, Well played sir!

     

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  26.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:52am

    Re: More info on SMRi

    "Watch over" = "Harm other local businesses":

    Board Vice-Chairman Jim Burgess said in the release, ďThis event is important not just only to South Dakota, but to the entire motorcycling world. Our goal is to watch over this intellectual property for the good of the Sturgis community and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/meadecountytimes/news/article_17f7a073-c50b-521d-b6af-c295 52715acc.html

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    It looks like someone is angry that they didn't think of this first. If those other businesses have a problem they should file a lawsuit. Otherwise all of you freetards need to quit your whining and let the law work.

     

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  28.  
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    Danny, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    That's a tough choice for a town that doesn't exactly have a booming economy. Unless the town is willing to say, "f@ck you! we don't need your money!" (and they might, some folks prefer small towns with not much going on) then more than likely this is a situation where the town needs the rally more than the rally needs the town. The merchants that are taking stuff off the shelves are probably also scared of the Sturgis Rally moving on to another small town that would have no problem giving up its name for sake of the proven massive economic boom for that 1-2 weeks a year.

    If they were trying to claim trademark over "Stugis Rally", "Sturgis Biker Rally", etc... then fine in fact I'd back them on it. But trying to take the name Sturgis itself? Bull.

     

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  29.  
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    Danny, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re: More info on SMRi

    Big words from (as far as I can tell) the only entity that the community needs protection from.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Without trademark protection, nobody would ever have an incentive to name towns.

    Get it right, you dumb freetards!

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    NOONE CAN TROLLOLOL THAT BAD

     

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  32.  
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    taoareyou (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 8:59am

    Re:

    Or better let charge them HUGE fees for such large assemblies. Big enough to cover the losses of all the vendors in town, that way they can reimburse them for their losses. They may have trademarked the name, but they don't own the town.

     

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  33.  
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    Gracey (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    ...because the other option would be stupidity.

     

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  34.  
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    rooben (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    Re:

    What did I just say? Using that word now is against the law. Dont like it? Find another country.

     

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  35.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:07am

    Re: More info on SMRi

    Here are the incorporators:

    Karen Simmons - CPA and board liaison to the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_7b9ddd5c-a926-11e0-88ad-001cc4c002e0.html

    Jerry Berkowitz - President of Hot Leathers, exclusive licensee for Buffalo Chip apparel and other bike rally merchandise

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/meadecountytimes/news/article_7dc7feb2-436f-502d-8597 -648066d19b43.html

    Al Rieman - President of Black Hills Harley-Davidson

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/image_c7726d5a-371a-5aa2-87d5-1700ef407654.html

    This all looks like something that would benefit "the greater good", doesn't it?

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re:

    File a lawsuit. Show me some paperwork. Otherwise, go back to your piracy club or wherever it is that you freetards go when you've been proven wrong.

    I could claim that I own the moon, but that doesn't make it so. Just like you folks claim that you own the culture. Your post just proves the attitude of the others around here. You think you should just be able to own things without filling out the proper paperwork.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Wow, I just realized that I didn't finish that sentence. That's what I get for working and posting I guess.

    ...they should have applied for a trademark and either negotiated licenses with businesses or just given them away to anyone that asked.

     

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  38.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor

     

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  39.  
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    And.D, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:27am

    Re: Biker Gangs??

    Are you really that stupid, or did you just have a weekend diet of "B,C, and D" 1950's and 1960's biker exploitation movies. If you don't know what you are talking about I strongly suggest not talking at all. the only "biker gangs" are on "Gangland," on FX (Son's of Anarchy) and in the minds of ATF agents looking to make a name for themselves. SMRi is the organization which organizes the various campsites, the vendors, and entertainment.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're absolutely right! I've just filed the paperwork that says that I own my left arm. Some day, I hope to own a complete set of arms. I just hope that doesn't cost me an arm and a leg, because I still don't own a leg of my own (haven't filed the paperwork, you see).

     

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  41.  
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    Difster, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 9:57am

    I'm getting in on this action

    I'm going to start a company called The 2nd Great Depression, LLC. I'm going to set up a website and sell merchandise (or attempt to). I will of course register the trademark.

    As soon as the press and everyone else start talking about the 2nd great depression, I'm going to sue the big media companies for watering down my brand and making it possible for me to differentiate myself in the market place because they keep using my brand name generically.

     

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  42.  
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    John Doe, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re:

    midlife crisis guys

    I resemble that remark. Though I haven't been to Sturgis yet.

     

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  43.  
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    John Doe, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    The rally moved outside of town to private land long ago. The guy who owns the land and puts on the rally is most likely the guy who filed for the trademark (I didn't read the article to see).

     

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  44.  
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    DogBreath, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Don't forget to fill out the twenty-seven B stroke six form. Your whole house could be burning down and you're not even allowed to turn on the kitchen tap to put the fire out without filling in the form and getting approval from the appropriate agencies.

     

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  45.  
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    Boost, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    They shouldn't need to. It's the town's name. The event predates the corporation that is putting on the event. It should all be what would be called "Public Domain." Kind of like releasing a product without applying for a patent first automatically invalidates any future patent application. Claiming a patent (or trademark) after public release makes any future claim to such the same as theft from the rightful owner (the public).

     

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  46.  
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    Boost, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    They shouldn't need to. It's the town's name. The event predates the corporation that is putting on the event. It should all be what would be called "Public Domain." Kind of like releasing a product without applying for a patent first automatically invalidates any future patent application. Claiming a patent (or trademark) after public release makes any future claim to such the same as theft from the rightful owner (the public).

     

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  47.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 10:22am

    Re:

    > I love how biker gangs are getting in on the copyright scam.

    Try trademark scam.

    Or tirademark.

     

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  48.  
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    Boost, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 10:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Perhaps you need a lesson in trademark:

    Trademarks are granted to protect a company's products from being confused with the products of another company. The company would need to show that there is adaquate proof that when people think of the word or phrase in question, that they think of a specific company. In this case, it can adaquately argue that when people think of "Sturgis" they think of an event in a town called "Sturgis" and not a specific company. Furthermore, this specific company is hosting an event in a town with the license of that town. So, who really owns the event? Arguably, the event is owned by the town and hosted with the license of the town. Therefore, by the law, the company has no leg to stand on.

     

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  49.  
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    sturgis, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 11:00am

    trademark

    The issue is the company with the trademark hasn't had exclusive use of the mark since numberous people have printed Sturgis Rally shirts for years.

    Also, the SMRI group doesn't put on the Sturgis event. Sturgis is like Mardi Gras with people showing up and random businesses catering to the crowd.

    This is a power grab by a few big businesses that will push out the competion.

    Don't be fooled into thinking this about the good of Sturgis.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 11:41am

    Re: More info on SMRi

    SMRiís predecessor was the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce

    Knowing that, the rest will probably make more sense.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Are you a lawyer or a freetard?

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 12:30pm

    They keep trying to tighten their control of the name Sturgis

    Being a resident of the nearby town of Rapid City, and one time owner of the sturgisrally.com domain name, I can tell you that the organization that controls the IP for the motorcycle event has been tightening their grip for years over many of the words that could be used in conjunction with Sturgis that could describe the annual event. Basically, they have trademarked many common phrases that were in use for many many years before to describe the event and then went after any person or business that decided to use those words, such as sturgis rally, sturgis bike week, sturgis motorcycle rally, etc.

    For many years when I had the sturgisrally.com domain (at the time, my company even hosted the official site), my site was dormant with no content, that is why I fell that I was fortunate enough not to receive any legal threats from the official rally company about the use of the name sturgis rally in my domain. Many other domain owners with similar names had to deal with the ridiculous licensing in order to use their domains.

    Now hearing that they are trying to control the word Sturgis is crazy. Sturgis is the name of the town. Does that mean any company that uses that name must pay a license fee? Map makers? Tourist shops selling generic Sturgis marked goods? Highway signs? Will the city of Sturgis have to pay a licence fee just to use their own town name? All ridiculous and I sure hope the companies being attacked will hire good lawyers in order to fight this and show just how idiotic it is to think that a company can own the name of a town.

    On a side note, an article from the same newspaper last year wrote about the number of federal agencies that had a presence during the rally and that one of their biggest tasks was to take out any 'bootleg' businesses selling items that contains words that described the event without obtaining the proper licences. Now I can understand the need to license the official name of the event to be used on goods sold, but they have always stretched things way beyond reason and logic.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 12:30pm

    " Apparently the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc (SMRi), the organization that runs the event, has decided to trademark "Sturgis" and sue local vendors for selling souvenirs -- a huge part of local business in Sturgis."


    The City of Sturgis runs the event. SMRi bought the trademarks from the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce. The issue is the manufacture, distribution and sale of unlicensed merchandise by companies not in anyway related to Sturgis or the event.

     

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  54.  
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    ts, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    These business people have been selling merchandise with the town name on it for a long time. Having someone file a trademark for the sole purpose of putting people out of business who were there before you is what I would call a freetard. They didn't name the town. They didn't create the merchandise. They didn't do anything BUT fill out the paperwork.... to "own" something they had no part in. If you don't see the problem with this, then I would like to fight you. Yes, a fist fight. Not that I'm a violent person, but someone needs to beat some sense into you.

     

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  55.  
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    Jim O (profile), Jul 12th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Another example of the same thing....

    I heard a similar story involving a different city: Cumming, IA (population 162).

    Apparently the town is very protective of putting their town name on shirts. They've got it on lock down.

     

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  56.  
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    anothermike, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 4:17pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You need to upgrade to the Sarcasmeter 451. With heat-resistant shielding developed by NASA, now available to the internet masses. Perfect for flamewars! Only $41.99.

     

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  57.  
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    B W-M, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 4:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    451 degrees: the temperature at which sarcasm burns

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 7:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    Neither, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night, so should be qualified as either ....

     

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  59.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 13th, 2011 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    > Though I haven't been to Sturgis yet.

    Went to Sturgis last year. Not on a bike, though. Just to take in the spectacle. Bought a completely unlicensed t-shirt and everything, the possession of which is probably now some kind of federal felony. I'll be turning myself in to ICE later this afternoon.

     

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  60.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 13th, 2011 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    > The town didn't apply for a trademark.

    But it's the town's name. One shouldn't have to file for government protection to use one's own name.

    If you weren't an anonymous coward, and I applied for a trademark on your name and then sued you for using your own name, would that be fine?

    If trademark law allows this sort of bullshit, then the law is fucked and needs to be changed.

    Clear enough?

     

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  61.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 13th, 2011 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    > You think you should just be able to own things
    > without filling out the proper paperwork.

    Holy shit. Yes, in a free society, people shouldn't need government paperwork to support their ownership of their own stuff.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    icon
    Chargone (profile), Jul 13th, 2011 @ 4:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is the way it should be

    so very much need a 'sad' button.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 6:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But is that real degrees (Celsius) or fake degrees (Fahrenheit)? (Apologies to Bradbury)

    Now opening: the Fahrenheit Copytard Legal Diploma-Mill!

    Coming to a book store nearby: Celsius 233! (Due to variations in sources, this book may be retitled Fahrenheit 842 in some jurisdictions)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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