Sturgis Motorcycle Trademark Verdict Partially Overturned

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

A dispute over trademarks related to the Sturgis motorcycle rally will continue after a federal appeals court rejected a litigant’s claims that it owned several of them.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., which was created in 2010 to license rally-related trademarks, failed to prove ownership of the “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally,” and “Sturgis Rally & Races” trademarks, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled Nov. 2.

The ruling emphasizes how a trademark serves as an indicator for a source of goods or services. In Eighth Circuit case, the group claiming the trademark isn’t the sole source of the services the trademark covers.

The iconic event draws more than 700,000 bikers annually to the small town of Sturgis, S.D. The court’s ruling hinged on the fact that Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc. doesn’t actually produce the event.

“No particular entity actually produces it,” the court said. “The rally is a pluralistic endeavor.”

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally targeted Wal-Mart Stores Inc., along with Rushmore Photo & Gifts, a souvenir wholesaler. The wholesaler has been selling rally-related merchandise since the first rally in 1938.

Judge Morris S. Arnold issued the ruling, joined by Judges Roger L. Wollman and Jane Kelly.

Clayborne & Loos and Sneed PLLC represented Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc. Beardsley & Jensen, Patterson & Thuente, and Gunderson & Palmer represented the defendants.

The case is Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. v. Rushmore Photo & Gifts, Inc., 8th Cir., No. 17-1762, 11/2/18.

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