/ Harley Davidson Copyright Infringement

Harley Davidson Copyright Infringement

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Manish Jindal

February 9, 2024


0min read

Harley Davidson Copyright Infringement

Are you curious to know about the Harley Davidson copyright infringement issue?

As the roar of an engine splits the quiet of the open road, it’s a sound that for many symbolises freedom, adventure, and a storied history of American motorcycle culture.

Instantly recognisable, both for its iconic silhouette and distinctive rumble, Davidson motorcycles have etched their mark onto the highways and byways of the world.

But beyond the physical roadways, they’ve also marked an expansive territory within the realm of intellectual property.

This is a brand that is as much about a lifestyle as it is about two wheels and a motor, leading it to fiercely defend its trademarks and copyrights over the years.

Harley Davidson copyright infringement saga has ridden a winding road, with numerous stories to tell.

Let’s take a journey into this complex world of copyright, trademarks, and the legal tussles that this motorcycle titan has engaged in over the years.

Strap on your helmet, rev your engines, and join us as we venture into this thrilling and at times, contentious terrain.

Harley Davidson Copyright Infringement Case

While Harley-Davidson has been involved in numerous copyright infringement cases, one of the most notable instances occurred in 1994 against SunFrog, an online merchandise retailer.

However, due to the broad nature of your question, I’ll highlight this prominent case and briefly discuss some others as well.

Harley-Davidson has also sued a brand for the copyright infringement. That brand is SunFrog, the copyright infringement case happened in the year 2017.

Harley Davidson sued SunFrog for the copyright infringement, counterfeiting, trademark infringement.

Harley-Davidson alleged that SunFrog was selling unauthorised apparel and merchandise bearing the Harley-Davidson logos and trade dress, primarily through SunFrog’s online platform.

This included the company’s name, bar and shield logo, and other distinctive design elements associated with the brand.

Brand Infringement

Harley-Davidson has worked diligently over the years to establish and protect its brand, which they felt was being damaged by the sale of these unauthorised goods.

They argued that these sales not only infringed on their intellectual property rights but also tarnished their brand image by associating it with inferior quality products.

In a significant win for Harley-Davidson, the court issued a judgement in their favor in 2018, ordering SunFrog to pay $19.2 million in statutory copyright damages.

The court also issued a permanent injunction, prohibiting SunFrog from further producing or selling any products bearing the Harley-Davidson trademarks.

In other instances, Harley-Davidson has engaged in legal battles over sound trademark rights, attempting to trademark the distinctive “potato-potato-potato” sound of their motorcycles.

However, this case was dropped in 2000 after years of litigation.

Furthermore, in 2012, Harley-Davidson sued Urban Outfitters for selling altered Harley clothing without permission.

The clothing retailer was accused of reworking and repurposing vintage Harley T-shirts, thereby infringing on Harley-Davidson’s trademark.

These cases underline Harley-Davidson’s dedication to safeguarding its intellectual property and maintaining the uniqueness and reputation of its brand, even if it means tackling complex and drawn-out legal battles.

These various lawsuits serve as valuable case studies on intellectual property rights in the world of consumer goods and the importance of securing and enforcing these rights.

Intellectual Property Rights of Trademark Owner

Intellectual property rights are legally recognised exclusive rights to creations of the mind.

For the owners of trademarks, these rights serve to identify and distinguish their goods or services from those of others.

This recognition helps prevent confusion in the market, protects the goodwill of the brand, and prevents others from benefiting unjustly from the reputation of the trademark owner.

There are several exclusive rights for the trademark owner to safeguard their brand. Let us look into the key rights in this blog,

Exclusive Use: The trademark infringement has consequences based on the jurisdictions. Similarly, the exclusive use depends on the product or services that are registered.

This means that they can prevent others from using an identical or similar mark for similar goods or services if it might cause confusion among consumers.

Licencing: The trademark owner can license the mark to others.

This can be done for various reasons, such as expanding business operations or entering into different markets.

The terms of the license are typically outlined in a licensing agreement.

Selling: The trademark owner can sell the mark, usually along with the business associated with it. The sale transfers all the rights of the mark to the new owner.

Legal Enforcement: The trademark owner can take legal action against any party that infringes upon their rights.

This can include selling counterfeit goods, using a confusingly similar mark, or using the mark in a way that dilutes its value or tarnishes its reputation.

Prevent Importation: In many countries, the trademark owner can work with customs authorities to prevent the importation of goods bearing infringing trademarks.

Understanding and effectively leveraging these rights is crucial to maintaining the integrity of a brand and ensuring its continued success.

The above rights of the copyright infringement will come with the specific responsibilities.

Trademark owners must actively use their marks and enforce their rights to avoid losing them.

In addition, they need to ensure their marks do not become generic, as this can also lead to loss of trademark protection.

Harley Davidson Copyright Infringement Report Policy

A Harley Davidson Copyright Infringement Report Policy of a company like Harley-Davidson would outline the procedures for reporting potential infringements of the company’s intellectual property rights.

This could include unauthorised use of Harley-Davidson’s copyrighted material, such as its logos, designs, or other protected elements. The policy might specify:

Who Can Report: This could include employees, customers, partners, or any other third parties who identify potential infringement.

How to Report: There would typically be specific channels for reporting potential infringements.

This could be through a designated email address, a form on the company’s website, or a specific department or individual within the company.

What to Include in the Report: The policy would likely require specific information to be included in the report, such as a description of the potential infringement, where it was identified, any available evidence, and the reporter’s contact information.

Procedure After Reporting: The policy should outline what steps the company will take after receiving a report, such as investigating the claim, taking legal action if necessary, and providing feedback or follow-up to the person who submitted the report.

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Protection for Reporters: It’s also important for such policies to assure those reporting potential infringements that they will not face retaliation or adverse consequences for making a report.

How Harley Davidson Eliminated Copyright Infringement

In an era where digital reproduction and distribution have become increasingly easy, completely eliminating copyright infringement is an uphill task for any brand.

However, Harley-Davidson, like many others, has taken significant steps to mitigate the infringement of its intellectual property rights and protect its brand’s integrity.

Here are a few strategies that Harley-Davidson has employed:

Vigilant Monitoring: Harley-Davidson continually monitors the marketplace for potential infringement.

This includes keeping an eye on online platforms where counterfeit merchandise may be sold, such as social media, online marketplaces, and other digital outlets.

Legal Action: Harley-Davidson doesn’t hesitate to take legal action against parties it believes are infringing upon its rights.

As demonstrated in the SunFrog case, the company has a track record of pursuing cases in court when necessary.

Trademark Registration: Harley-Davidson protects its brand by registering its trademarks.

Trademarks are registered not only for the company’s name and logo, but also for its distinctive colors, shapes, and even sounds.

This provides a stronger legal footing for enforcing their intellectual property rights.

Education: Harley-Davidson works to educate consumers about the importance of buying authentic products.

By highlighting the superior quality of genuine products and the potential drawbacks of fakes, they can encourage consumers to steer clear of counterfeit goods.

Collaboration with Authorities: The company also works closely with law enforcement agencies and customs officials worldwide to identify and seize counterfeit goods and take action against those responsible for their production and distribution.

Brand Protection Services: Harley-Davidson, like many other large corporations, has likely employed a brand protection service that uses advanced technology to scour the internet for counterfeit products, thereby making it easier to identify and address potential infringements.

Despite these efforts, it’s worth noting that completely eliminating copyright or trademark infringement is extremely difficult.

But with active monitoring, prompt legal action, and continuous education of the public about the value of authentic products, Harley-Davidson has been able to significantly reduce the instances of infringement and protect the value of its iconic brand.


As we come to the end of our exploration into Harley Davidson copyright infringement, one thing is evident: the company’s relentless commitment to preserving the sanctity of its brand.

Navigating the treacherous terrain of intellectual property rights, Harley-Davidson has faced its share of hurdles, each time rising to the occasion to safeguard its iconic status.

From landmark court cases to consumer education and partnerships with law enforcement, the company has left no stone unturned in its quest to protect its brand.

While completely eliminating copyright infringement in today’s digital age seems a Herculean task, Harley-Davidson’s vigilant enforcement of its intellectual property rights demonstrates that it is possible to significantly mitigate such issues.

The brand’s journey underscores the importance of understanding and aggressively protecting one’s intellectual property rights in the business world, serving as a testament to the power of legal foresight and the preservation of brand integrity.

Whether you’re a business owner, a legal professional, or simply a consumer, the story of Harley-Davidson’s battles with copyright infringement offers valuable insights.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the most notable copyright infringement case involving Harley-Davidson?

One of the most notable copyright infringement cases involving Harley-Davidson was against SunFrog, an online merchandise retailer.

The company accused SunFrog of selling unauthorised apparel bearing Harley-Davidson’s logos and trade dress.

Harley-Davidson won the case, and SunFrog was ordered to pay $19.2 million in damages and was prohibited from further producing or selling any products with Harley-Davidson trademarks.

2. Has Harley-Davidson ever tried to trademark its engine sound?

Yes, in a highly publicised case in the 1990s, Harley-Davidson attempted to trademark the unique “potato-potato-potato” sound of its V-twin engine.

The company ended up withdrawing its application in 2000 after lengthy litigation and opposition from other motorcycle manufacturers.

3. What steps has Harley-Davidson taken to protect its intellectual property rights?

Harley-Davidson has taken several steps to protect its intellectual property rights.

This includes vigilant monitoring of the marketplace for potential infringements, taking legal action against infringers, registering its trademarks, educating consumers about the importance of buying authentic products, collaborating with authorities to seize counterfeit goods, and likely using brand protection services.

4. Why is Harley-Davidson so protective of its brand and logos?

Harley-Davidson’s brand and logos are integral to its identity and reputation.

They signify the quality and craftsmanship that go into every Harley-Davidson product.

Infringements can damage the brand’s reputation, mislead consumers, and lead to financial losses.

Thus, Harley-Davidson vigorously protects its intellectual property to maintain its brand integrity and the trust of its customers.

5. Can Harley-Davidson completely eliminate copyright and trademark infringement?

Completely eliminating copyright and trademark infringement is a considerable challenge, especially in the digital age where reproducing and distributing counterfeits has become relatively easy.

However, through vigilant monitoring, prompt legal action, consumer education, and collaboration with law enforcement, Harley-Davidson can significantly reduce such infringements and continue to protect its brand.

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