The Harley-Davidson Sound Trademark

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Harley-Davidson, often abbreviated as Harley, is a motorcycle manufacturer in America. Harley-Davidson sells heavyweight motorcycles designed for cruising on the highway. Harley-Davidson sustains a loyal brand community which keeps active through Harley-Davidson clubs and events. Licensing of the Harley-Davidson brand and logo accounted for $40 million of the company’s net revenue in 2010.

Harleys have a distinctive design and exhaust note and in 1994, the company filed a sound trademark application. The distinctive sound of the motorcycle engine is produced by V-twin, common crankpin motorcycle engines when in use. Harley-Davidson competitors opposed the trade mark application, arguing that cruiser-style motorcycles of various brands use a single-crankpin V-twin engine which produce a similar sound.

These objections were followed by litigation. In 2000 Harley-Davidson dropped efforts to federally register its the sound of a Harley trademark.