The Sturgis Lawsuit

November 5, 2015

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The Sturgis Lawsuit

Last Friday, an eight person federal jury in Rapid City, South Dakota ordered retailer Walmart and a Rapid City souvenir shop called  Rushmore Photo and Gifts to pay the nonprofit Sturgis Motorcycle Rally corporation $790,000 in damages for trademark infringement.

The suit, which was filed in June 2011, has featured extensive lawyering, a countersuit and a nine day trial. Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc. has asked federal district judge Jeffrey Viken to make the defendants pay for all the lawyers.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. is the official sponsor of the Sturgis Rally and it has trademarked “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally,” “Sturgis Rally & Races,” “Take The Ride To Sturgis” and “Sturgis Bike Week.” The corporation has also trademarked the official Sturgis rally logotype or picture mark. The oldest of these trademarks dates to 1997 and the most recent was registered in 2011, just before the suit was filed, The rally began in 1938. An estimated 739,000 people attended this year.

Paying Sturgis

The nonprofit corporation licenses the right to use those trademarks and the resulting revenue provides a significant part of the annual budget of the city of Sturgis, South Dakota, In its complaint, the corporation said it had used the royalties generated from the sale of licensed goods and sponsorships “to the betterment of the Sturgis community, such as by making contributions to over 90 different causes and organizations, including the Meade County summer school program, Salvation Army’s food cupboard, Sturgis Arts Council, Sturgis Jaycees, Sturgis Little League, Sturgis Police Department D.A.R.E. program, Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department, Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity, Crisis Intervention Shelter, special projects of the City of Sturgis, and Girl Scouts of the USA.”

The defendants sold t-shirts and various souvenirs and trinkets that featured images of motorcycles, the word mark “Sturgis” and other non-trademarked slogans like “motor classic” and “ride with pride.” They have been arguing for the last four years that Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc. had obtained the trademarks fraudulently.

They also argued that the corporation could not trademark the name of a city and that was what the case boiled down to.


The issue has come up before. In 2006, Abercrombie & Fitch threatened to sue merchants in Hollister, California for putting their city’s name on shirts and pants. Occasionally since 1947 Hollister, like Sturgis, has also sponsored large motorcycle rallies. Abercrombie & Fitch claimed it had simply dreamed up the word Hollister and trademarked it as a brand of clothing. Abercrombie & Fitch sent Hollister merchants cease and desist orders but they never actually brought suit against any of them because until now nobody had ever successfully trademarked the name of a city.

At the time, Hollister City Attorney Stephanie Atigh said what most lawyers thought. “There is no way you can trademark Hollister, California. It’s a geographical place.”

Mark Lemley, an intellectual property expert at Stanford University agreed. “If all you are doing is identifying your city’s name on your shirt, you are not engaged in trademark use,” he said. And Abercrombie & Fitch’s lawyers agreed.

But the jury in South Dakota just disagreed. They said the geographical place name “Sturgis” could be trademarked if it appeared on a shirt with a motorcycle on it.

If the verdict holds up, there may be a rush to trademark “Daytona,” “Laughlin” and “Laconia.”

The defendants have not yet given notice of appeal.


61 Responses to “The Sturgis Lawsuit”

  1. Big Ang Diamondback Says:

    @tommy – good post

    @Dasein- phuquehead happens to be good people. A solid AR member

    @bone head- no worries on the spelling. Much Respect to you sir.

  2. Tommy Says:

    I’m also a thirty something year old man and my older brothers always tell me how it used to be and I love hearing their stories. I always tell them I was born in the wrong era and while they always say they had their ups and downs back then it was nothing like today.

    I’d just like to thank and send respect to all the older bikers that have made this community what it is today. You have taught us younger brothers what the true meaning of love, loyalty, respect, and brotherhood means.

  3. Dasein Says:

    Phuquehed: Yes, definitely joking. All I know of that show is some random comments and pics that have showed up here and there on my internet travels. It’s another reason I too am the proud non-owner of television, maybe 20 years now. If I could stand it, and had the time and brain cells to spare, I’d consider a bit of viewing a useful intel effort, just to see what the masses are being fed, but there’s enough of that already just in the daily “news” paper. Sites like Rebel’s are where I find out what’s really happening, and here also:

  4. troll 1% Says:


  5. troll 1% Says:

    to lurker don’t wish to be older ,us old fucks need someone to step up and keep this thing alive, It is called BROTHERHOOD .go find two friends, one month ,a box of sausage,some beer and whatever ,and take the ride! ride safe and teach some one what you learn. F.T.F.

  6. dogbreath Says:

    Sturgis is fantastic! Just go two weeks before or after the circus rolls thru town. Ride the Black Hills, Wyoming and Montana and avoid tourist shit. Ride the Iron Mountain Road, Beartooth and Chief Joseph highways.

    Went to the event once, ’78 or ’79. I think there were 50,000 people, it was still too crowded for me. At least the trailering in your bike and living in a Winnebago phase hadn’t really kicked in, yet. Vinnie 1″er would not have been comfortable in the sea of mud I camped in.

    The simple life is still there, although changed up some. Flying a patch, any patch, complicates things. We didn’t use to have public functions, and didn’t participate in ‘straight’ events, we had private parties on private property or we showed up unannounced at remote campgrounds on public lands. We did not invite scrutiny, and tried to avoid the 99% as much as possible. We kept the circle tight, and most of us did not want to grow any larger. Knew the name of every brother, his wives, kids and dogs. The KISS formula, applied to real life.

  7. Phuquehed Says:

    @Dasein – Hopefully you’re fucking joking. If not, just to let you know, that fucktard show has been in the news before just enough to know it’s nothing but a talk show with the ugliest, stupidest bunch of cunts someone could come up with. You apparently also knew it was a show too. That should say something about what *YOU* watch. I on the other hand haven’t had a teevee in my house in four years.

  8. FF Says:

    Big Jim, Whittier Says:
    November 6, 2015 at 5:42 pm
    FTW if you are worried about this kind of Bull Shit you are playing by the Man’s rules. Fight, Fuck, Party and ride a nice Harley with your Brothers.

    So simple, right? LOL. I keep telling myself, STOP THINKING ABOUT IT!

    Sogyal Rinpoche said in describing his Master:

    “Had I not met him, I know I would have been an entirely different person. With his warmth and wisdom and compassion, he personified the sacre truth of the teachings and so made them practical and vibrant withy life. He inspired in me an unshakable confidence in the teachings, and a conviction in the central and dramatic importance of the master. Whatever understanding I have, I know I owe it to him. This is something I can never reapy, but I can pass on to others.”

    There are people in this world who I feel that way about, so why not just tune everybody else out, keep listening to them, and pass it on to the next guy?

    Peace and Respect to you Jim.

    bcnasty Says:
    November 9, 2015 at 4:39 am
    @ Big Jim, Whittier,
    . I look at what i come from every day and where I am now.Most would consider me a success. I have not been happy since I started living the dream. Some days it is hard to look at myself and a week or two on the road usually helps.

    I feel the same way, but you know what? I Sqaush it. I squash the guilt, the foreboding waiting for the other shoe to drop. all that negative shit.

    I come around, around the hard way. I am where I am because the Gods deemed it so. I accept it. I lack nothing, I want nothing. I am happy. I am content. I don’t feel lucky, but maybe I am. Maybe it’s luck, fate. Who knows. Who cares. Lets ride.

    Peace and Respect to you Bcnasty.

  9. crazy frank Says:

    tom…sturgis is cops and lawyers now.

  10. bcnasty Says:

    @ Big Jim, Whittier,
    darn man , no disrespect intended but if your words did not come across as a punch in the nuts for this ole fool. I look at what i come from every day and where I am now.Most would consider me a success. I have not been happy since I started living the dream. Some days it is hard to look at myself and a week or two on the road usually helps. While it may seem my lips are chapped here your words just made me think of how many else are thinking about this rite now.

  11. bcnasty Says:

    Shoot, Never remember thinking I was cool then. I was just a broke ass fool on the road of life trying to work enough to ride eat and drink while keeping my 14 over sporty running. Then there was days I doubted my life. Usually after two days of not eating and having to beg borrow steel gas. Now, I would go back and do it all over again. Fond memories of the Goodwill Boxes. You could sleep in them.

  12. Paladin Says:


    Based on your unsolicited reply to Phuquehed’s post, it would seem you’re well informed on that particular show.


  13. Paladin Says:

    In order to avoid the likes of Tom, xplor, david and the other assorted trolls that frequent Rebel’s page, a number of us have taken to communicating on Facebook. There seems to be a lot less “static” on that bandwidth.


  14. ElleElle Says:

    Good Gawd, really? Sturgis was a blast this past year for the simple fact of going early, leaving early and traveling 1000s of miles all around it, instead. PS not all of it was RUB town-that’s just not a true comment at all-and if you don’t go or didn’t go-you may not know. I am sure it’s nothing close to what it once was-and I fully agree about just hitting a long road to no where instead..but anything in life is what you make it-and I had the time of my life!

  15. Dasein Says:

    Phuquehed, are you just now admitting here publicly that you watch, or have ever watched, ‘The View’.

  16. Phuquehed Says:

    Tom the Bitch, nothing better to do with his off days from being a fucktard pig than try and stir shit like some stupid bitch on ‘The View’. Fuck off and die, Tom, you bastard cunt.

  17. Shovelhead Says:

    Tom the Rat Pig!!
    Since you don’t know, it’s the COPS in Sturgis that rip off and Tax the Town by over charging on the premise that outlaw Biker Gangs are coming and the cops need to protect the citizens. All bullshit of course. But cops have always lied to make money.
    Most real Bikers don’t even go to these big Yuppie T-shirt events anymore.

  18. The Kraut Says:

    Tom; your continued lack of accurate info should get you an award of complete fucking idiot.

    Your heads been up your ass so long its now a suppository.

    Fuck Sturgis and all RUB rallies/events/soirees

    Respect to those who warrant respect

    The Kraut

  19. Big Ang Diamondback Says:

    Tom, ATF fed man. Have you ever been to Sturgis ?

  20. Tooj Says:

    Were you expecting an answer, Tom? Troll.

  21. Tom Says:

    Sturgis is not s nothing but a once a year nesting ground for criminal biker gangs. The biker gangs tax the cities law enforcement and basically leave the town in shambles. Utter childlike behavior by men wearing costumes and abusing drugs and alcohol

  22. Bone Head Says:

    Shit I can’t type
    Big Ang.

  23. Bone Head Says:

    Bid Ang…agreed. well spoke.

  24. Big Ang Diamondback Says:

    * I call it the coddling of grown men and women.”
    ” no longer do we make respectable men and women these days “

  25. Big Ang Diamondback Says:

    I agree with @lurker.
    Seeing all the old-school guys on here post about the way things used to be makes me jealous about that time. Im a young kid in my 30s but I’m a patriot. And I’m an advocate of the blue-collar old western respectable gentleman lifestyle. Unfortunately there aren’t too many people that follow my rules and laws these days. And society is turning into complete shit. I called the coddling grown men and women. No longer do we make respect a woman and women in this country, We produce little girls and cry babies pent-up on who spends the most mone pent-up on who spends the most money on the latest Mercedes.

    -Big Ang

  26. Moonshiner Says:

    Screw Walmart. No matter what Sturgis has become, the people in charge at Walmart have NEVER looked favorably upon our life style, but will gladly exploit us, as they do everyone who will hold still long enough.

  27. Base Says:

    Why settle for just a piece of the pie, when you can have all the pie!

    Covetousness is about status & power. Control of everything! This really is nothing new, this attitude has always been around, perhaps not on such a large scale. Population boom and technology just put’s it right in our faces.

    It’s always the greedy people laying claim to everything!

    Eye on your 6

  28. deuce Says:

    My father was a biker, my brothers and I are bikers. My first bike was an Indian Scout bobber that the Old Man brought home in pieces. That was my high school ride. At 60 years, I’m still the weirdo that rides to work on my bike year round…heat, cold, rain, bugs, fog. I made the Daytona run in the mid 70’s. I hated it. Too many damn people. I’ve never been to Sturgis, never will. What bcnasty and Shovelhead said are true. I’ve had the time of my life on the road with my old lady or 2 or 3 brothers. I HAVE camped under a picnic table many times, after burning one. 2 sleeping bags, a shelter half, small tool kit, bag of something good for the head. I hate what the life has become. Just a money machine to sell the “image” Thank you, Rebel, for providing this place. Respects

  29. Kwma Says:

    Went to 74th camped behind the bar one night and left the next last one, to many rubs and trailers

  30. Tom Joad Says:


    If you were in the Houston area in the early 70’s you could have experienced the fine hospitality of Harry Stelter, owner of the first Harley dealership in Texas. He really took care of us. Great guy and a great shop.

    Respect to the deserving.

    Ride on.

  31. xplor Says:

    It used to be if you went to the Harley dealer with a problem they would tell you to take it back to where you bought it. They only helped folks that bought bikes there. Try to order a part ? You would prepay and wait 6 weeks for it even if they had the part in stock. Only after they found they could resale old cop bikes as flat bottom choppers did they work on anything aftermarket.

  32. John Deaux Says:

    Kenny 1%we and Shovelhead
    Right on guys.
    Much respect.

  33. Shovelhead Says:

    Kenny 1%
    We were just being ourselves, not tied down to any establishment rules. Nonconformists, living life to the fullest. Just having fun!!
    I try not to dwell, but miss simpler day’s, just about the only guys riding Harley’s were Bikers.
    Before the internet, cell phones, microwave ovens. When fags knew enough to stay in the closet, and the Kardashians weren’t born yet. TV was all stupid shit shows so I never spent any time in front of the tube, was always outside working, riding & fucking as much as I could.

    Most men didn’t have the balls to live our lifestyle. The only reason Yuppies can now ride and pretend to be Bikers, is because they got Laws passed to make it safe for them to attend Motorcycle rallies and other events.
    It was always safe, Yuppies are just chicken shit motherfuckers!

    Respect to 1%ers

  34. Kenny 1% Says:

    Remember when your wore a Harley t shirt if ya owned one. You had to be a good wrench to keep your sled up and running. Working on your bike going thru it before a big run. Changing the tank and custom painting her was to make her yours. Youd see oldladys with a line of oil running up their back. Now these bikers all want to be what we are. Hard to believe we where cool. Even though we all knew we where different. Respect to those brothers. They earned it.

  35. TX_Biker Says:

    Amen Big Jim

  36. Mike Smith Says:

    This is gonna be interesting. To watch anyway.

  37. Big Jim, Whittier Says:

    FTW if you are worried about this kind of Bull Shit you are playing by the Man’s rules. Fight, Fuck, Party and ride a nice Harley with your Brothers.

  38. david Says:

    Plaintiff’s attorneys(word twisters), are not above lying their asses off, falsifying financial data, and paying off jurors when large money is involved.

    Too much money for the alleged non-profit corp. attorneys not to attempt to bribe jurors, or have paid jurors empaneled. Corporate charters can be revoked for less.

    BTW, what happened to the FOUR other jurors? Win or lose, ALL attorneys profit at the people’s expense.

  39. stroker Says:

    well….FUCK! guess I better offload my 1980 Harley Sturgis FXB quick, before I get sued!

    Silly shit!


  40. VAGO 1%er Says:

    @ Paladin
    what you said

  41. Paladin Says:


    If you were older and a part of this back in the day, your heart would be broken today.

    Long May You Ride,


  42. lurker Says:

    Man, hearing older bikers talk about how things use to be has me jealous. Wish I was older and could have been a part of this stuff back when it was real and not coporatized.

    I’m in agreement, fuck the commercialized rallies and bike weeks I’d rather go camping with a hand full of my buddies and some chicks.

  43. Road Whore Says:

    bcnasty said it right! “Give me two good friends and a month on the road sleeping under picnic tables covered by tarps, cooking sausage on sticks and burning one while looking at the stars passing out, tired but happy.”

    That’s what it’s all about.

    Ride Free

  44. BMW Says:

    Thanks for passing this along, Rebel!
    @ Bone Head: Yes!
    @ T Hell: Very good points!
    @ Paladin: Lawyers are worse than vultures in these cases!

    Both Sturgis and the retailers are trying to profit from pimping out our biker identity. Of course the corporate lawyers who organized the most recent takeover of Harley are the biggest pimps in the world. I am surprised Harley Corp, WalWart and Sturgrease haven’t tried to copyright the terms “motorcycle”, “rally”, or “biker” yet!

    These organizations, and corporate entities like the (inaccurately named) “History Channel” have all made a profit through pimping bikers. In other communities, the pimps have been forced to either hire from the community or pay reparations. Where is Jesse Jackson when WE need him? LOL

    I have a dream!

    What about setting up a REAL charity to support injured motorcyclists or the survivors of motorcyclists killed riding? Let’s get the pimps to start SUPPORTING bikers as well as profiting from us! Just saying… ki


  45. popeye Says:

    Sturgis and non profit should never be used in the same sentence.

  46. bcnasty Says:

    just another one of the things in the world that make you question how much longer one is able to just be a duck and let stupid roll off your back.

    PS Fuck Sturgis ,Laconia and all the rallies. Give me two good friends and a month on the road sleeping under picnic tables covered by tarps, cooking sausage on sticks and burning one while looking at the stars passing out, tired but happy

  47. Road Whore Says:

    Fuck me to tears.

    Ride Free (Phrase or slogan NOT trademarked or copyrighted)

  48. Paladin Says:

    How tragically embarrassing. Two vultures; fighting over the last remaining scraps, from the carcass of a beast long since dead.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  49. T Hell Says:

    Sturgis sues Wal-Mart, are you fucking kidding me Sturgis is Wal-Mart, two brothers from a different mother. What was once a party, an escape, an event where rags melded into a cornucopia of color and brotherhood of the road became a $29.00 T shirt, bikes arriving on a trailer for a two mile cruise downtown, doctors lawyers and indian chiefs all striving for bragging rights at the local country club….. Fuck Sturgis, fuck the Iron Order, fuck the RUBs, what was will never be again what never really was can be found in aisle 34 at Wal-Mart that or in the clearance t shirt rack at the local motor company I fear that I will fight no more forever….

  50. Bone Head Says:

    Corporate lawyers, greed and money…no wonder I don’t go to big “events” like that. Give me a local field party after a good hard rain anytime.


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