SHOP WINS RIGHT TO CALL IT'S SELF "HOG"
Harley-Davidsons may be hogs Biker slang for a big motorcycle but not all hogs are Harleys, a federal Judge has decided. The ruling was handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward F. Maxwell in a trademark- infringement lawsuit by Harley-Davidson Motor Co. against a West Seneca motorcycle repair shop that has operated since 1969 under the name The Hog Farm. The judge said the Mineral Springs Road store can keep the name, which it was using well before the Milwaukee manufacturer registered the term "hog" in 1981 and before the suit was filed in 1993. "If the plaintiff was truly concerned about the infringement of its trademark," he wrote, "it would not have waited more than a decade to voice an objection, much less bring suit against this defendant. "At this late date, the loss of The Hog Farm's business identity would be unjust and inequitable." However, Maxwell barred The Hog Farm from continuing to use a logo similar to Harley-Davidson's familiar bar-and-shield symbol to promote its business, and from using the word hog in products it sells, including a board game and a degreaser. The case mainly concerned Harley-Davidson's exclusive claim to the word "hog" as it refers to the non-barnyard species, and to the bar-and-shield trademark. The defendant's Hog Farm moniker and its marketing of various products labeled "hog" violated Harley-Davidson's "prior right to use the word," the manufacturer claimed. Hogwash, The Hog Farm answered. When he opened the shop in 1969, owner Ronald Grottanelli testified, the term "hog was not limited to Harley but applied to large motorcycles of all sorts. In fact, Grottanelli claimed, Harley-Davidson "hated" the nickname until it seized on the term as part of a marketing strategy that reversed its slumping fortunes in the 1980s. Maxwell sided with The Hog Farm. At last fall's trail, the plaintiff presented no evidence "that prior to 1969, 'Hog' was associated with Harley-Davidson," which had never used the name to promote itself, and never tried to stop others from doing so, the judge found. "There is, however, substantial evidence which would indicate that in those years the term referred to motorcycles (or motorcyclists) generally." The trademark issue is a pig of a different color, the court went on to say. Grottanelli, Maxwell pointed out, admitted his use of the bar-and-shield design with the words American Made Motor Cycles was intended "to be similar, but confusing…to a Harley-Davidson bar-and-shield." The 22-page decision won't be the last oink in the legal biker war. Lawyers will return to court June 16 to hammer out a final order.
721 Mineral Springs Road