Harley-Davidson Suing Affliction for Allegedly Infringing on the Bar-and-Shield Trademark

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

T-shirt designs allegedly resemble iconic logo

Harley-Davidson has reportedly filed a lawsuit against clothing brand Affliction alleging it is selling T-shirts with designs that resemble its Bar-and-Shield logo. According to a report by the Milwaukee Business Times, Harley-Davidson filed suit against the California-based clothing company in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin.

According to the Business Times, a Harley-Davidson dealer allegedly received a wholesale shipment of clothing from Affliction and noticed some of the designs had elements that looked similar to Harley’s trademarked logo. The dealer reported the shirts to Harley-Davidson, and company lawyers sent Affliction a cease-and-desist letter on Oct. 18 alleging trademark infringement on 20 products.

According to the Milwaukee Business Times, Affliction attorneys indicated nearly a month later the company would stop selling six of the items. That was not good enough for Harley-Davidson, which then proceeded to file suit.

Harley-Davidson is reportedly seeking penalties of $2 million per trademark per product type, profits from the sale of infringing items, compensatory and punitive damages, plus the cost of corrective advertising and attorney fees. The suit also seeks the destruction of existing products with infringing designs.

Looking through Affliction’s product catalog, it wasn’t difficult to find items that had elements that resembled a shield shape with a bar running across it. Pictured in the lead photo above is the reversible Affliction AC Motorcade shirt, and below, the Affliction Silent Eagle Chrome reversible shirt, pictured below.

The bar-and-shield motifs are not exactly identical to Harley’s design, but you can see a resemblance, particular with the Silent Eagle Chrome shirt’s orange and black colors. Designs do not have to be identical to be considered trademark infringement; there only needs to be enough similarity to cause confusion among consumers about the source of the product. Likely not helping matters is that these two items are part of Affliction’s motor-themed American Custom line.

A spokesperson for Harley-Davidson said in a statement the company is “legally required to exercise control over the use of our trademarks.”

“We make every effort to ensure consumers are not confused by the source of merchandise bearing our trademarks,” spokesperson Michael Pflughoeft said. “By altering and reproducing the Harley-Davidson logo for use on clothing, we believe Affliction has violated our trademark, and this violation could cause confusion among customers that Affliction is somehow affiliated with or endorsed by Harley-Davidson.”

The matter is now in the courts, but let’s put it to our readers: Do you think these designs infringe on Harley-Davidson’s trademark? Let us know in the comments below.

Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the Motorcycle.com team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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7 of 32 comments
  • DeadArmadillo DeadArmadillo on Dec 29, 2017

    Harley isn't selling motorcycles, they've turned into a clothing store. No wonder they' jump at he chance to try and sue someone.

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    • VDoc VDoc on Jan 03, 2018

      You may want to look a little closer at my picture to see that it's highly unlikely I'm an attorney, at least as a primary occupation! And I've been a biker for 30 years now, putting more than 20,000 miles/year on my bikes. But all of that irrelevant. The more relevant issue is the one you raise, which is how does it benefit the citizens of the country for Harley to win the lawsuit. Well, this is not particular to Harley. It regards the purpose of copyright laws in general. The argument is they protect the assets, including intangible assets, of companies from undeserved profiting by entities not associated with the company. And that is of value, since it rewards the entities that develop the brand and encourages innovation and investment with the hopes of protected profits in the future. The same paradigm is used in patent laws for medications, although those are tempered with 17 year statutory limits. The brand protection, however, has no statutory limits on its copyright protection. A great example of this is Bayer aspirin. Aspirin is a remarkable drug, and was patented in 1899. It's patent has expired 100 years ago, yet the brand name of Bayer is still protected. The patent allowed Bayer to profit and expand the use of the drug, and it's expiration allowed other companies to eventually sell the drug much more cheaply. That's a great example of how this works. Bayer was encouraged to develop and market the drug, which benefited billions of patients down the road, and industry itself got a boost when the patent expired. Brand patent reward companies for investing in the development of quality products represented by the brand, and that encourages innovation. So yes, I think H-D should easily win this. A better question to ask you is how would the abolishment of patent laws benefit society and the economy? If there were no patent laws, you would not be ale to tell one brand from another, and there would be no encouragement invest in the production of quality products. It would be easier to simply mimic another product and cut quality to undercut the price. The consumer would never know what he was actually getting. We actually see that in countries and markets where patents are violated. I guarantee you that the reverse-engineered BMW's of North Korea are nothing like the real thing, no matter how much they resemble them. I would want to know I'm getting the real thing, and that takes respect for patent laws to occur.

  • Malcolm Turncoat Malcolm Turncoat on Dec 30, 2017

    Copyright is stifling american business, HD need to come out with better product