City of Sturgis and SMRI Trademark use of STURGIS Declared Invalid By Court

City of Sturgis and SMRI Trademark use of STURGIS Declared Invalid By Court

Rushmore Photo and Gifts has prevailed in a decade long court fight over the use of the term "Sturgis" as it relates to motorcycles and motorcycle related products.

First affirmed in November of 2018, and later ruled on February 14, 2019, Judge Jeffrey Viken in the US District Court, District of South Dakota, Western Division stated:

“The record does not support a finding that SMRI owns, produces, or operates the rally, or does anything else that might allow it to acquire ownership over the rally itself or its intellectual property. The record indicates to the contrary that the rally is a pluralistic ­endeavor.”

What this means for vendors, suppliers and local business owners in the Black Hills area is the City of Sturgis and the entity they created, SMRI, (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc) which licensed the logo to Hot Leather for distribution and collection of licensing fees, can no longer force anyone to buy from Hot Leathers or pay a licensing fee for the use of "Sturgis"  or "Sturgis Motorcycle Rally," or "Sturgis Rally and Races" on apparel or any other product sold to the general public. 

Additionally it would be assumed that the lawsuit and settlement against the rally in Sturgis Kentucky, that was started in 1993 and called "Little Sturgis" is no longer enforceable.  Little Sturgis changed it's name to "Kentucky Bike Rally" after it was sued by SMRI.

The South Dakota Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was born from the Black Hills Motor Classic started by local Indian dealer J.C. (Clarence) “Pappy” Hoel in 1938. Since its inception, private area businesses throwing events such as races, concerts and rides have made, and continue to make, the Sturgis Rally what it is today.

Local Sturgis area businesses are joining Rushmore Photo and Gifts in celebrating the appellate court's decision.

On the Buffalo Chip's website the celebration was apparent.

"For the first time in more than a decade, RPG and other businesses will be able to produce goods in 2019 using the now defunct Sturgis trademark. RPG may have been the ones to bring and stick with the lawsuit, but they won’t be the only ones reaping the rewards of their time spent in court.

As Judge Viken stated in his February 14, 2019 ruling, “The terms STURGIS, STURGIS RALLY & RACES, and STURGIS MOTORCYCLE RALLY when used by the defendants, or by anyone else for that matter, do not infringe on SMRI’s marks.
We all owe Rushmore Photo & Gifts a debt of gratitude for having the backbone to stand up to false claims and for helping to clarify the obvious that everyone knew to be the truth.
See the full ruling from the US District Court, District of South Dakota, Western Division filed February 14, 2019 here.
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