Harley-Davidson suing Forever 21

Lawsuit alleges trademark infringement from jacket patch

Harley-Davidson headquarters
Harley-Davidson Inc.'s headquarters in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. is suing Los Angeles-based Forever 21 for trademark infringement after the retailer allegedly sold motorcycle-style jackets with a counterfeit of Harley’s iconic bar and shield logo.

Harley's lawsuit alleges this jacket sold by Forever 21 infringes on its trademark bar and shield logo.
Harley’s lawsuit alleges this jacket sold by Forever 21 infringes on its trademark bar and shield logo.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin, argues that Forever 21 used the logo “in unauthorized way that falsely suggest and are likely to create the mistaken impression that Forever 21 and/or Forever 21’s products came from Harley or are authorized, approved, and/or licensed by Harley when they are not.”

Forever 21 did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

While the Harley logo includes the words “motor” and “cycles” in the shield, the Forever 21 patch says “motor” and “club,” according to photos included in the lawsuit. The Forever 21 patch also says “commander New York” in place of the “Harley-Davidson” name and has a slightly different shape.

Harley’s lawsuit cites a 2009 trademark case that describes the bar and shield logo as “a famous mark for at least motorcycles, clothing and headwear” regardless of wording.

The lawsuit seeks an order preventing Forever 21 from using the logo, requiring the destruction of unauthorized products, paying for corrective advertising, paying $2 million in statutory damages per mark per type of product, giving Harley any profits from the sale of counterfeit items, and compensatory and punitive damages.

Harley's bar and shield logo.
Harley’s bar and shield logo.
The patch on a motorcycle-style jacket sold at Forever 21.
The patch on a motorcycle-style jacket sold at Forever 21.

The lawsuit is the second trademark infringement suit Harley has filed in the last month. At the end of August the company filed a lawsuit against online retailer Gear Launch and a number of associated companies. The suit alleged those companies were selling Harley branded merchandise without authorization.

“This is about protecting the brand,” Harley spokesperson Maripat Blankenheim said of the Gear Launch suit.

She said Harley enjoys not only brand loyalty, but also brand distinction, adding the company does a lot of work to protect its trademarks.

Blankenheim also said Harley customers will often contact the company with items they believe may be counterfeit or infringing on trademarks.

“It’s not always easy to tell when you’re looking at them,” she said, adding that at various points in Harley’s history new employee orientation has included lessons in telling authentic, licensed merchandise from counterfeit productions.

She said it isn’t common for Harley to go to court over trademark infringements. In most cases of counterfeit materials, Blankenheim said the company will simply ask the seller to cease-and-desist. In the case of Gear Launch, she said it became necessary to go to court after the company didn’t respond.

In a statement, Blankenheim reiterated the company believes Forever 21’s jacket infringed on Harley’s trademarks.

“The Harley-Davidson brand is one of our company’s most important assets. We take great pride in the quality of the products that carry our trademarks, and we are legally required to exercise control over the use of our trademarks,” Blankenheim said. “We make every effort to ensure consumers are not confused by the source of merchandise bearing our trademarks.”

Harley also sued Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters in 2014 for selling Harley clothing that had been altered or reconstructed. That case was ultimately settled.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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