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Harley-Davidson Drops Federal Trademark Application

20 June 2000

Harley-Davidson Declares Victory in the Court of Public Opinion -- Drops Federal Trademark Application

    MILWAUKEE - Harley-Davidson Motor Company is getting out of the trademark office and hitting the road, where the sound of its V-Twin engine is as recognizable to motorcycle enthusiasts as The Star Spangled Banner. The Company announced today that it is dropping efforts to federally register its trademark of the sound of its motorcycles.

    "I've personally spoken with Harley-Davidson owners from around the world and they've told me repeatedly that there is `nothing like the sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle,'" said Joanne Bischmann, vice president of marketing. "If our customers know the sound cannot be imitated, that's good enough for me and for Harley-Davidson."

    Owner of one of the most identifiable brands in the world, Harley-Davidson filed to federally register the distinctive sound of its V-Twin engines in 1994. The application was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which agreed that the sound, by itself, identified Harley-Davidson motorcycles and distinguished them from other motorcycles.

    "Dropping the application is a practical business decision," said Bischmann. "More than six years have passed since we filed our application and there is still no end in sight. The process of registering this trademark has become more of an issue than the uniqueness of our sound, and frankly, we're tired of throwing tens of thousands of dollars out the window on litigation."

    During the six years, Harley-Davidson, Inc. has thrived among strong competitors, and demand for Harley-Davidson motorcycles continues to soar. While other motorcycle manufacturers have tried to compete with Harley-Davidson in the heavyweight V-Twin "cruiser" segment, none have been able to match Harley-Davidson in terms of customer loyalty and sales. In fact, Harley-Davidson has enjoyed a string of record sales and profits for the past fourteen years. Those years have been marked with continuous product news and improvements, and the unique sound of the engine has been one of the constants.

    Harley-Davidson, Inc. is the parent company for the group of companies doing business as Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Buell Motorcycle Company and Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Inc. Harley-Davidson Motor Company, the only major U.S.-based motorcycle manufacturer, produces heavyweight motorcycles and offers a complete line of motorcycle parts, accessories, apparel and general merchandise. Buell Motorcycle Company produces sport and sport-touring motorcycles. Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Inc. provides wholesale and retail financing and insurance programs to Harley-Davidson dealers and customers.