Harley sues online retailer, seeks millions

Accuses California firm of violating trademarks, copyright

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

Harley-Davidson Inc. is seeking millions of dollars in damages from an online retailer it says violated the company’s trademarks and copyrights by selling apparel without authorization.

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

Milwaukee-based Harley is suing California-based GearLaunch, Inc. and six associated businesses including Gear Harley, TeeKiwi, TeeFuny, TeeSeason, Biker’s Corner and TeeDig for trademark counterfeiting, infringement and dilution, cybersquatting, copyright infringement and unfair competition.

In the lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern Wisconsin district, Harley alleges the companies have combined to sell 15,627 articles of clothing that infringe on Harley’s logos. In particular, Harley said the clothing utilized the Bar & Shield, Willie G. skull and Number 1 logos.

Harley sells merchandise through its own website, dealerships and authorized retailers. The company has a set of standards and guidelines in place to control the quality and appearance of merchandise with its logos. All licensed merchandise is subject to prior written approval by the company before it can be manufactured, promoted or sold by licensees.

In 2015, general merchandise, which includes apparel and riding gear, accounted for 5.5 percent of motorcycle segment revenue at $292.3 million.

Harley says it emailed a total of five cease-and-desist letters between January and June to the various companies involved in GearLaunch, but the companies continued to sell Harley merchandise.

Harley alleges that by selling apparel without authorization GearLaunch is creating confusion in the marketplace and potentially damaging Harley’s brand, which it says is valued at $5.46 billion.

The company is seeking an order blocking the defendants from continuing to sell Harley branded merchandise, $2 million in statutory damages per product type for each of six trademarks allegedly infringed on, $150,000 per work infringed on, all profits from the sale of infringing products, $100,000 per domain name deemed to constitute cybersquatting and other damages and attorney’s fees.

An email seeking comment from GearLaunch was not immediately returned.

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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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