Clapp Versus Harley

March 13, 2012

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Fritz Clapp, the self-described “lawyer from hell” who has represented “the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation in trademark and related business matters” for more than two decades is involved in a small dustup with Harley-Davidson.

Clapp (above) has filed numerous trademark infringement suits on behalf of the Angels. Last August he filed suit against Wildfox Couture, LLC and amazon.com, In the last three years Clapp and the Angels have also sued Saks Fifth Avenue, fashion house Alexander McQueen and godaddy.com. In previous years the club sued Marvel Comics and the Walt Disney Company.

“We bring these lawsuits from time to time not just to punish but to educate,” Clapp told the Los Angeles Times last summer. “Somebody thought erroneously that Hells Angels is a generic term.”

Clapp is now representing, pro bono, a Delaware shopping center contractor and internet entrepreneur named James Coulbourne. Coulbourne operates three websites including Camospace.com, a social networking site for hunters, and a social networking site for mothers and “mom bloggers” called momnbaby.com. He caught the attention of the motor company after he bought a domain named harleyspace.com and decided to turn that into a social networking site for bikers about six weeks ago.

Harley Complains

Last month Judy Henslee, Harley-Davidson’s Manager of Global Brand Protection sent Coulbourne a letter complaining: “we are aware that you have registered and are using the domain name HarleySpace.com to direct users to a social networking site; that you are using HarleySpace in a manner suggesting that it is a legal entity by, for example, claiming copyrights in its name; that you have created and are using a graphic logo incorporating the name HarleySpace, which constitutes trademark use; and that you use this name and logo on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, among other web sites. You are also e-mailing Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealers, inviting them to join your social networking site.”

“I really admire the company,” Coulbourne told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And it’s not like I am trying to sell motorcycles with the name Harley on them.”

Harley’s brand warlord disagrees. “Your use of our trademark in the above-identified manner is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception in the marketplace,” Henslee wrote, “in that consumers are likely to believe that your web site is somehow affiliated with, sponsored, or approved by Harley-Davidson, when this is not the case. Your actions are also likely to dilute the character of our famous trademark. Under the circumstances, it is our view that your conduct constitutes trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution.”

Clapp Responds

Fritz Clapp thinks the dispute is about freedom of speech. “There are limits” to trademark protection he told the Journal Sentinel.

And, in his response to Harley Clapp wrote, “The noncommercial services of HarleySpace.com are easily and immediately distinguishable from the commercial merchandise offered and sold bearing the Harley brand.”

Intellectual property enthusiasts can find an interview with Fritz Clapp here

http://youtu.be/epAWlwUXHOQ

 

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9 Responses to “Clapp Versus Harley”

  1. amy white Says:

    yea, fritz is sonny’s lawyer. I met him a couple years ago. some asshat found a picture of me and fritz online and used it in an article when he sued McQueen over those death head rings he designed. gah.

  2. things that make you go hmm Says:

    WELL THIS LAYER OR SOME LAYER NEEDS TO CHECK OUT THIS … SO THIS MORNING ON YOU TUBE I SEE A SONG BY STALLEY FT RICK ROSS CALLED HELLS ANGEL, I COULD NOT BELIVE MY EYES WHAT THE FUCK,ANY WAYS IM NO LAYER BUT CHECK THIS SHIT OUT.

  3. Snow Says:

    Love the machine, hate the company…..

  4. Kyle Says:

    Anyone seen the “harley davidson cafe” in las vegas? what an example of trademark ripping, wonder how that infringement case went down.

  5. Philo Says:

    Isn’t that the exact same argument made by the Canadian court when the HALF sued Marvel Comics over the “Hells Angel” comic book? That the difference between the two was so obvious that there couldn’t be a trademark issue?

  6. Stroker Says:

    JAMES sez:
    “is SONNY BARGERS personal legal man.”

    Yes, he is.

  7. JAMES Says:

    ALSO if correct is SONNY BARGERS personal legal man.

  8. BadMagic Says:

    I’d like to see him counter-sue Harley. I just got one of those clothing catalogs from them and looked through it on the shitter. Low and behold, right there in big embossed letters on lots of their stuff, “H-D MC”. I think they are trying to capitalize on “MC” being mis – interpreted as Motorcycle Club SOA style. I think it certainly “constitutes trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution”. Why buy support gear of legitimate MC’s when now you can get H-D MC merchandise to go a long with the HOG patch?

    B-)

  9. anon Says:

    He should make it a site about controversial Cro-Mags member/past-member Harley Flanagan that just happens to have a motorcycle sub-forum.

    On a more serious note, HD probably has a semi-legit claim here, but I can’t see them ever winning in court. The first thing you see on the page is a banner with clear text saying, “This is not an official Harley Davidson site. This page is not sponsored by Harley Davidson.” The domain name issue still seems to be open due to so-called “cyber-squatting” laws.

    Seems like a clear cut dismissal to me. Then again, I wasn’t on the Ablett jury. [In case it isn’t clear, that’s a negative comment about the Ablett jurors and their propensity to convict without deliberation.]

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