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Can you Trademark a Motorcycle Icon?

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On February 22, 2011, property owners and vendors in the rally world were shocked to learn that a group organized in South Dakota has been awarded the official registration to the trademark “Sturgis”.  What does it all mean anyway? Well, things are about to get hotter during the Rally in Sturgis this year as many of the vendors and property owners, for one, will be greatly impacted by this recent development. Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. (SMRI) is a non-profit corporation which purchased the rights of the trademarks relating to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally from the city’s Chamber of Commerce. SMRI proceeded to take it to the next level by asking for a trademark registration of the word “Sturgis” and were successful as it relates to the motorcycle rally.

A big concern to all the vendors, local business and property owners that lease space during the rally is that one of the corporation’s members is Jerry Berkowitz, owner of Hot Leathers. So now, everything from T-Shirts, shot glasses, stickers, hats, and pins will now be produced by ONE entity – HOT LEATHERS.  One Bad Bitch has made a few rally shirts over the past few years but does not solely depend on this appliqué for its success during the rally. But there are many vendors that do. Companies like The Knuckle Saloon, a bar that was established in Sturgis, South Dakota, and has operated a business that supports its local economy YEAR-ROUND, has been known for their own brand of Sturgis rally shirts available at the bar that they sell around the world throughout the year. Because of this trademark development, the bar will be forced to purchase their rally shirts from Hot Leathers and will not be able to sell Knuckle Saloon Sturgis 2011 shirts for example, unless they pay licensing fees and possibly royalties for the use of the word STURGIS. 

The impact on property owners is also surfacing. Many property owners rent or lease their space to out-of-state vendors during the rally. But since vendors are unsure as to what they can now legally print or sell without trademark infringement, some are opting out from selling at the rally this year. By not setting up shop the individual vendors revenue for the year is lower, but so is the revenue of the property owner. Many pay yearly taxes up to $20,000 for their buildings on Main Street, and if Sturgis becomes a ghost town instead of a rally town because of SMRI’s trade marking the property owners will be some of the first to feel the financial blow.  A license to vend in the City of Sturgis is $600.00 per application.

The actions of SMRI could really backfire and even the City itself could see a huge impact if fewer vendors set up during the rally. Less revenue collected for the licenses, and less sales tax collected during the rally will then affect the State of South Dakota.  What does it mean for the rally-goer? Way less variety of the prized “rally shirt” or souvenir and a sea of sameness.  Although this is tough news to take, and it is unknown as to the true impact of the “Sturgis” trademark, One Bad Bitch will be set up in Sturgis without a rally shirt this year, but will have an exciting selection of our attitude tops, sexy lingerie, pasties and much much more!!!

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