Trademark Spat Pits Bikers Against Trendy Teens


Harley logo

Forever 21 Inc., the family-owned fast fashion phenomenon whose consumers have been described as “young, grabby and fast,” is accused of infringing the trademark of iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson, whose customers have been described as, well, bikers.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 14, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Group LLC claims Forever 21 ripped off its well-known bar-and-shield logo trademark—used on a huge range of Harley-branded products from jackets to flash drives to sausages—by using a similarly shaped bar-and-shield patch on its leather jackets. But instead of “Harley Davidson Motorcycles,” the Forever 21 patch carries the words “Commander New York Motor Club.” Both logos feature orange lettering on a black background with a white border.

Harley claims Forever 21's jackets could confuse consumers – those young, grabby and fast ones – by suggesting Harley’s sponsoring the apparel or is otherwise affiliated with it. A trademark's purpose is to identify the source of goods or services. Forever 21 has not yet responded to Harley's complaint.

This isn’t Harley’s first trademark battle against a company that trends more to the young and hip than, well, bikers. The 113-year-old motorcycle brand settled a trademark infringement suit against Urban Outfitters Inc. in 2014.

In that case, Urban Outfitters was selling genuine Harley Davidson clothing that had been “reconstructed,” such as by “cutting off the sleeves, shredding the bottom of the shirts, cutting open the side seams of the shirts, cutting the necklines, and removing Harley-Davidson hangtags, neck tags, and/or labels and replacing them with defendant’s own branding,” according to the complaint.

The companies settled that case on undisclosed terms three months later.

Forever 21 has faced previous trademark infringement suits from Adidas AG and Levi Strauss and Co., among others.