Harley-Davidson wins judgment against SunFrog


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GAYLORD — Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson has been awarded $19.2 million in statutory damages from Gaylord-based T-shirt company SunFrog in a court battle over trademark infringement.

“This is a discouraging day for SunFrog and the entire print-on-demand industry,” SunFrog owner Josh Kent said of the judgment.

Harley-Davidson about a year ago filed suit against SunFrog, claiming the shirt company illegally sold apparel decorated with Harley-Davidson logos.

District Judge J. P. Stadtmueller, of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, on April 12 issued a judgment in Harley-Davidson’s favor, granting the damages and prohibiting SunFrog from making any Harley-Davidson branded apparel items. The judgment officially was for counterfeiting under the Lanham Act.

The 81-page judgment acknowledged that overseeing designs submitted by thousands of SunFrog clients is daunting: “… the task before SunFrog has not been easy, as the explosive growth of its business has meant a daily downpour of design submissions and infringement perpetrated by computer programs rather than individuals.”

SunFrog provides production and online ordering services that allow its platform users to upload images and process sales. The page at SunFrog.com/legal states that the company takes intellectual property rights seriously and that individual users control the content of designs they upload to the service.

Kent said in an email statement that SunFrog’s legal team is exploring options and that company management hopes the shirt-maker and the motorcycle-maker “can come to a mutually beneficial decision.”

SunFrog has faced separate trademark infringement legal actions involving Ohio State University and rock band Mötley Crüe. A judge in late February ordered SunFrog to stop selling items with Ohio State trademarks. Kent was unsure of the status of the Mötley Crüe claim, which was filed in December by British brand merchandiser Global Merchandising Services.

Online digital media has grown massively in the last five years, Kent said, and that growth has brought new challenges to industries that deal with online content.

“It has been, and continues to be our goal, to pioneer the print-on-demand industry while maintaining the responsibility of our platforms users,” he said.

SunFrog has about 400 workers and a 100,000-square-foot production facility in Gaylord. The company did $100 million in business in 2016. SunFrog launched in 2013 and has become one of the world’s largest T-shirt sales websites and manufacturers. The company in January appointed Aaron Singler as CEO.

“Already, he has put a renewed focus on the quality and integrity of the art community and you will continue to see his changes implemented over the coming months,” Kent said.

Last week’s partial summary judgment leaves two matters still pending before the court: compensatory damages for non-counterfeiting acts of infringement, and liability and damages on Harley-Davidson’s claim of copyright infringement.

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About Craig Ballantyne 21426 Articles
I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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