Sturgis Rally Trademark Fight. The Official Reply From SMRI.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (SMRI) attempts to answer the 10 questions that have been distributed to the media with clear and concise answers to the extent the questions were clear.  (I was not able to verify the information and alleged statements provided below by SMRI)

1. SMRi recently added two new licensees, Biker Design Inc. and Motorcycle Rally USA. These are two more significant distributors that have recognized SMRi as the rightful holder of intellectual property pertaining to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  SMRi is pleased to have Biker Design Inc. and Motorcycle Rally USA on board as suppliers of quality merchandise at the 2011 Rally.

2. Besides its mission to improve the rally, SMRi also has the mission to return a charitable benefit to the greater Sturgis community. By way of example, SMRi recently donated $3000 to Sturgis Rally Charities, which in turn donated it to Neighborworks. Neighborworks used the money to complete a fundraising goal in Sturgis to help with their GroupWorks program, which helps low income, elderly and disabled community members fix up their homes.

3. SMRi has the exclusive right to use the trademarks Sturgis Rally and Black Hills Rally in conjunction with motorcycle rally goods and services, and otherwise so as to prevent consumer confusion and false advertising. Businesses located in Sturgis and the Black Hills area remain free to use
those geographic designations to connote their non-motorcycle rally goods and services in a fair and truthful manner.

4. Jerry Berkowitz has been singled out unfairly in the media and is just another board member. He holds the board seat designated for a licensee of the program and he has no more say or influence than anyone else on the board.

5. Any business is able to buy official licensed merchandise to retail from a wide-variety of the official licensees of SMRi.  Moreover, any business willing to comply with reasonable quality control requirements with respect to the quality of their Sturgis Motorcycle Rally goods and services and their use of the proprietary trademarks of SMRi is invited to contact SMRi’s licensing agent, HomeSlice Management, to explore whether a license or sublicense is right for their business and for SMRi.

6. SMRi is actively seeking solutions to any issues through active dialogue with numerous entities and national businesses who have any questions or concerns regarding official licensed product.  SMRi’s representatives have held numerous  meetings with businesspeople, vendors and landowners, to discuss SMRi’s intellectual property rights, the 2011 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and to answer questions. SMRi plans to continue and expand this practice.

7. By supporting SMRi and buying officially licensed merchandise, retailers and consumers are supporting the health and vitality of the greater Sturgis area and the enormous economic impact of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  SMRi looks forward to continuing to invest in the Sturgis-area community and local charitable causes, which investments are made possible by royalties generated through licensing and sponsorship
activities and the countless hours invested by SMRi’s volunteer Board members and many others.

SMRi answers to 10 Questions

1) If the groups “Black Hills Harley Davidson, and Hot Leathers/Good Sports Inc.” initially opposed the “STURGIS” and “BLACK HILLS” Trademarks being obtained by anyone, why did they create SMRI along with “Home Slice” to control and enforce these Trademarks, with such heavy hands? If they had such pure intentions in the beginning, what now is their purpose?

SMRi Answer:
The circumstances evolved after a long series of conversations over many months.  Key to the outcome was the formation of a not-for-profit
organization, with no shareholders, governed by a volunteer board, to oversee the intellectual property of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and work
together to support the local community.  The result was the formation of the South Dakota 501 (C)(6) organization, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. The Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors unanimously approved the transfer of the Sturgis Rally-related marks to the new organization, and maintains a seat on the Board.

2) Who are the principals of SMRI and what interest do they represent?

SMRi Answer:
SMRI is a not-for-profit organization with no shareholders and a volunteer board.  The board is comprised of 8 board members, with the possibility of a 9th member.  Two members represent the interest of Sturgis Rally-oriented businesses, two represent the interest of non-Rally Black Hills-area businesses, one member represents the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce, one member represents the City of Sturgis, one member represents the primary motorcycle manufacturer and one represents the licensees.  Board terms are 3-years (initially staggered for stability on the board) and no board member can serve more than three consecutive terms.  The current members are;  Ross Lamphere, Dean Kinney, John Johnson, Susan Johnson (no relation), Karen Simmons, Jamie McVay, Jim Burgess and Jerry Berkowitz.

3) If SMRI’s intent is noble why is the organization closed to additional members?

SMRi Answer:
Like most non-profit boards, this one has a certain number of members who rotate out over time.

4) Where are the documents to prove SMRI has any legitimate title to their assumed power?

SMRi Answer:
The primary intellectual property of the organization has been successfully registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office and its records are public.  SMRi owns U.S. registrations to the marks STURGIS and BLACK HILLS when used in connection with goods and services pertaining to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, STURGIS BIKE WEEK, TAKE THE RIDE TO STURGIS and others.

5) If philanthropy is SMRI’s goal why are major board members excluded from royalty contribution?

SMRi Answer:
While the terms of all licenses are confidential, this statement/question is misleading and false.

6) How do funds controlled by external private business (owned by a SMRI board member) end up in the control of the SMRI board?

SMRi Answer:
This question is confusing.  The funds of SMRI are under the supervision of  a Certified Public Accountant.

7) Once funds are in the SMRI board’s control, what criteria is used for teir dispersal?

SMRi Answer:
SMRI’s funds are dispersed with two primary duties in mind: Improve, promote and enhance the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and related intellectual property, and provide a charitable return to the Greater Sturgis area.

8- What guaranties are given that sometime in the future this board of SMRI does not transfer their control to a different group of people who’s intent is unknown?

SMRi Answer:
No such transfer is anticipated.  However, by law, the transfer of SMRI’s asets, a 501(c)(6) community development organization, would have to be to another not-for-profit organization.

9) In order to obtain the registration for the term “STURGIS”, a sworn tatement to the U.S. Trademark office was made that STURGIS was exclusively used by the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce from 1987-2001. Anyone who is from his area well knows that this statement is False. How could SMRI, in good conscience, seek to enforce the STURGIS registration when it was obtained based on a lie?

SMRi Answer:
The premise of this question is false and is a misrepresentation of any statements made by SMRI’s predecessor to the U.S.P.T.O.

10) If SMRI is such a benevolent philanthropy based organization, why was their 1st offcial act to crush and destroy a children’s charity in

SMRi Answer:
This statement is misleading, inflammatory and false.  Like its pedecessors, SMRI has a responsibility to protect its intellectual prorty.  Indeed it is vital to the continued economic impact of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that the STURGIS and related brands associated with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally be strong and protected from infringement by others.  In any event, SMRI’s predecessor to the intellectual property rights sought to reach a solution with the Kentucky organization before suit was instigated, and the case was resolved earlier this year pursuant to which the Kentucky organization agreed that it infringed on SMRI’s rights, judgment was granted against the Kentucky organization and it changed its name to something not infringing on SMRI’s legal rights.  As far as we know, the Kentucky charity still exists and is able to operate a motorcycle rally and distribute funds to charities of its choice – it just is not allowed to infringe SMRI’s trademark rights by misappropriating the STURGIS trademark to its own motorcycle rally.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. is the owner of the portfolio of trademarks and service marks related to the world-famous event, including the word marks STURGISR and BLACK HILLS R when used in connection with Rally goods and services.  The City of Sturgis is a licensee of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. and is authorized to sell sponsorships using the intellectual property of the organization.  SMRi also has about a dozen official licensees for a wide- variety of products.  Distributors and retailers of STURGIS and BLACK HILLS Rally-related merchandise can be certain they are purchasing authorized and officially licensed merchandise of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, simply by sourcing it through a licensee.  “The tourism season is here,” commented Kinney “and we anticipate a strong year for the industry and especially for the hundreds of retailers that sell our products. We appreciate their business and that of the hundreds of thousands of consumers that seek out and purchase the products of this remarkable and historic brand.” Questions regarding the licensing program of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally can be directed to Lisa Weyer, a Licensing Agent for SMRI, at 605.347.5336 or

30 Responses to “Sturgis Rally Trademark Fight. The Official Reply From SMRI.”

  1. 1 Nobody Jul 15th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Smells like a cow farm on a hot humid day…

  2. 2 TRexSG Jul 15th, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I hope that this battle doesn’t ruin the Rally and all that goes with it but it likely will.

    No one has the right to suddenly take a name that has been used to 70+ years and claim it as theirs. What BS.

  3. 3 deadwood1783 Jul 15th, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Been there 14 times. But am done with Rally. GREED,,, and you can’t smoke in a BAR or CASINO. Now smoking is a filthy habit,, thats not even debateable,but the business owner, and his rights are and the business owner should be able to decide whether or not he wants smokers in his business. ITS A BIKER RALLY. Or at least it was. Many found memories in them thar Hills. No more Sturgis for me,,,,its right up there with commies in Myrtle Beach.

  4. 4 Shifter Jul 15th, 2011 at 11:39 am

    If SMRI continues to act this way, in 2 weeks starts to seize merchandise from vendors who oppose this undeserved trademark, I see a massive boycott getting started by bikers in refusing to buy any merchandise carrying the “official” rally logo. SMRI ignores the power of bikers. This group of people working for self interests, not the rally, can learn very soon that it can cost them a lot to steal a name belonging to all Sturgis attendees.

  5. 5 Carter Jul 15th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    No respect for these greedy people. When you buy a tee in Sturgis this year, find out if the vendor had to pay a fee to SMRI. If yes, don’t buy it.

  6. 6 Bruce Jul 15th, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Read all comments on this post and the ones before. None in support of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally trademark held by this group. Beginning of the end.

  7. 7 Michael Jul 15th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Just more evidence as to why the ROT rally gets bigger every year.

  8. 8 Fathead Jul 15th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Taking orders for my Sturgis Bike Week Black Hills Rally F@#K SMRI Tshirts

  9. 9 Richard Jul 15th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    The “answeres” above didn’t clear much up for me. $3000. to Sturgis Ralley Charities seems like peanuts to me. Is that all?

    I’ve been to Sturgis over 30 times since the early ’70’s. Five of us opted for an alternative week long tour this year. We discussed how the ralley has evolved into a “cash cow’ over the years. Motel rooms double, triple in cost and just about everything has become cost prohibitive. The Black Hills and surroundind area is a wonderful riding location but it’s getting too commercial etc.

  10. 10 Roadkill Jul 15th, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    These answers are smoke and mirriors. Jerry is now in controll of the rally products. $3,000 is nothing to pay for that. SMRI need to go away!

  11. 11 Boss Hawg Jul 15th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Benevolent and charitable my fat ass! Nothing herein smells like a bed of roses. Ambulance Chasers out to get all they can.

    Go see Jeff Nicklus at Desperado Junction, and bypass ANY activities that promote and contribute to this blue sky and wiffle dust swirling.

    $3,000…who’s gettin blown now…STURGIS!

    ROT Rally has great promoters. Maybe SMRI will get that trademarked, too…NOT!

    Boss Hawg

  12. 12 Richard Jul 15th, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    boss hawg…If hebe means what I think it means, it’s very offensive to me (and I’m Irish Catholic). People who use these kinds of derogatory, disparaging, bigoted expressions about other people should grow up.

  13. 13 Dresner Jul 15th, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    They contributed $3000 to charity? What a joke. Good enough for me to be certain that they are a bunch of money hungry people working for themselves, nothing else. Or this trademark is canceled by a judge or they will face a revolt by Sturgis merchandise merchants and worse, bikers who are going to boycott the rally until these people return to their caves.

  14. 14 Donovan Jul 15th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    “Improve, promote and enhance the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and related intellectual property, and provide a charitable return to the Greater Sturgis”. My ass. Don’t take us for stupid. Your objectives are power and money.

  15. 15 M. Andrews Jul 15th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    This SMRI group must disappear. Don’t buy anything from Hot Leathers during the rally.

  16. 16 Grayhawk Jul 15th, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Maybe South Dakota made the same mistake as North Dakota supposedly did and they’re technically not really a state of the United States and then the US Patent SMRI garnered might be deemed invalid and not be applicable to a territory?

    No offical tee-shirts for me this year either.

  17. 17 Scott Brands Jul 15th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    In an interview to DealerNews, Kinney, one of the members of SMRI admits the following: “Jerry (Hot Leathers) is getting beat up by others (because) clearly that benefits him” Nuff said.

  18. 18 Shifter Jul 15th, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    What was in the past the contribution of the SMRI members to the rally? ZERO. Who made the rally. ALL BIKERS GOING THERE. Trademark belongs to all bikers. Period.

  19. 19 Toby Jul 15th, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    This has been an ongoing problem at the big rallies, and even the smaller rallies within limited amenities. This is why I prefer the regional long weekend rallies as they are much more manageable and less crowded. I love the Sturgis (can I say that word?) area and the amazing rides, but the bike events have really become burdensome and often not worth the effort. Daytona is big, but at least it is now decentralized, and the surrounding areas have the capacity to support 400,000 bikers. Daytona is the only big one I attend now.

  20. 20 Boss Hawg Jul 16th, 2011 at 12:04 am

    @Richard….it is what it is…I am Roman Catholic and it does not bother me a bit about the nuns and priests. Cyril cleansed the the post for ya….so a Berkowitz is what it is again. WE can’t be everything to everybody…so suck it up till conditions improve.

    Stay focused to the topic, please.

    Boss Hawg

  21. 21 Drake Jul 16th, 2011 at 12:22 am

    SMRI, a bunch of losers. Lawyers, always winners. No more going to Sturgis because it got worse and worse. SMRI is the perfect illustration of how a group of corporate people in bed with an ugly tee shirts printer can take over a prestigious rally and turn it into a fake bikers scene where any mean is justified to steal money from true bikers. Kick these people out of the Black Hills.

  22. 22 Louis McCleley Jul 16th, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Buy only non-official Sturgis rally merchandise et save all independent vendors. Most are bikers. Not like these half suits at SMRI.

  23. 23 fuji Jul 16th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Echo’s of Daytona.

    Freedom of being a biker is being your own person and not following ” The Pied Piper.”

    If you don’t like the music, don’t do the dance.

    There’s more music down the road.

  24. 24 just my opinion Jul 17th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Funny how you guys talk about greed and being united as bikers but then jump to the defense of a non biker over the guys that do ride and support the bike industry. I agree this is about greed but who’s greed? The guys that Legally own the Trademark or the guy that is trying to feed off of their hard work and large investments? There is nothing wrong with Trademarking a company name or Trademarking a Rally name.
    Just so you guys know Trademarks, copywrites and Patents are part of our constitutional. This country is built off of the intellectual property of hard working people. If you let every Tom Dick and Harry just take what ever he fells he wants, then why would anyone want to build a business around a Trademarked name or a copywrited work or a patented product. Stop and think about what is really going on here. The guys at SMRI have stated that they are willing to license anyone wanting to use their Trademark so long as they pay a SMALL Fee and it is not some idiot trying to sell some offensive item. So why would this Photo shop owner not be willing to pay a small fee that goes to charity anyway? That photo shop owner knows that the Trademark ads value to his products and he also knows they will sell to bikers if that Trademark is added. So why does he want to use the motorcycle Trademark if he sells photo’s and gifts? The short answer is Greed. You guys are right about that you just have the wrong party at fault. Let’s face the facts here. This photo shop guy knows that adding the logo’s and Trademarked name to his items help them sell and he gets more money for those items. That is what this is really about. Ask your selves this question, how much has the photo guy given to charity? Answer probably nothing. And I know some of you will say “well SMRI has only given 3000” but remember they had to buy that Trademark and as such need to recover that cost and they have only owned it for a short period of time and they have given money to charity already. The fact that SMRI have donated money already tells who is really in it for the money. And so what if these guys are going to benifit off of this Trademark by using it on their own products. What is wrong with making money? And how can you guys be so against someone that does ride and care about biker rights making money but defend someone that only cares about being able to feed off of the rally we all built?
    Sometimes I think some of you guys smoke way to much weed or drink a little more than your minds can handle.

  25. 25 Boss Hawg Jul 18th, 2011 at 9:58 am

    @ JMO…I trademark and register intellectual property for my benefit also and know the importance of such. We will keep that at that!

    However, we are speaking of “common” words such as “Sturgis”, “Motorcycle” and “Rally”. These 3 words apply to multiples of uses such as, but by no means limited to, towns, cities and municipalities, motorcycles in their entirety, and rallies in their entirety to include the Tea Party rallies, etc…in general and thus, as such, no trademark will hold if they are applying to trademark any of these 3 words for exclusive use. Fact, they will more than likely loose money by shall we say the possibility of “extorting” money from others no matter the outcome of the lawsuits. Those that have paid licensing fees need to keep records of all communications and moneys paid.

    You are a very intelligent man and have done well for yourself in this industry. You own trademarks. Run the combo by your trademark attorney and get his “opinion” then let me know if you still think we “smoke way to much weed or drink a little more than your minds can handle.” Please know that I don’t smoke weed and that I drink very little, but I do have fun and ride. Till then, please trailer something other than the Honda Fury Chopper to your next rally…wink wink.

    Boss Hawg

  26. 26 Uncle Monkey Jul 18th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Wow, a whole $3000 donation. My riding group puts on a small rally (under 1200 attend) and we annually donate $20-30,000 every year to local charities.

  27. 27 Mark Jul 18th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I am bugged by the so called 3k of charity money. Is that all you can come up with. I run a small collective in the Santa Cruz Mountains and we have donated 500 dollars to local not for profit charities already and we opened on July 4th. Seems like someone is getting fat pockets and trying to look like good guys. Not a fan of greed.

    Ray Wheeler Forever.

  28. 28 Ax Jul 21st, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    A few years ago the local govt adopted the name “Sturgis Rally and Races” and trademarked that as the “official” name of the rally. I have no problem with that. Now they try to just grab “Sturgis Rally” and “Black Hills Rally” which have been used for seventy YEARS by all kinds of businesses to promote the rally???? Not to mention that it was the Jackpine Gypsies who started the rally and should have a say on who has the rights to what name.
    This is obviously illegal. The vendors need to get together and get up the spine to oppose this.

  29. 29 1550tc Jul 25th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Wow, a whole $3000 donation

    the cops make that easily in an afternoon at the exit 46 stop sign 🙁

  30. 30 hdbabe Nov 8th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    help us fight these gloom and doom, SMRI jerks…..smug miserable rejected ingrates…….

    help sturgis get its name back….dont buy anything from hot leathers or harley davidson

Comments are currently closed.
Cyril Huze