A Case Of Trademark Enforcement By Polaris Industries – Indian Motorcycle Against Crazy Horse Motorcycles

Trademark rights are protected through registration, maintenance, watching, and enforcement. These precautions, and proper use help preserve the ability of marks to indicate the source of a product or service to consumers.

On Monday September 19th, 2011 the Intellectual Property Law Firm of Merchant & Gould in Minneapolis, MN representing Polaris Industries Inc. and its subsidiary Indian Motorcycle International LLC (IMI) contacted Crazy Horse Motorcycles LLC in Kent, Washington for what they consider an Indian Motorcycle Trademark infringement. The subject of this letter is to stop the use by Crazy Horse Motorcycles of an Indian Headdress logo and design used as their corporate logo, tank and fender badges.

John White from Crazy Horse Motorcycles sent me an email/letter stating the following “It seems that Crazy Horse’s logo is upsetting the stakeholders at Polaris. I think we sold a total of ten tank logos and perhaps 15 fender logos. I am not sure who is making the risk management decisions at Polaris but they are going to end up exposing their very weak mark to the point of public domain.  They just (blip) with the wrong guy…”

I am not sure what he means by “Polaris is going to end up exposing their very weak mark to the point of public domain”, but I am pretty sure he is going to explain his arguments in “comments”. I publish below the letter of cease and desist sent to Crazy Horse Motorcycles (minus numerous attachments and exhibits with sketches and drawings) by which Polaris/IMI claims all its Indian Motorcycle trademarks and demonstrate its intent to enforce them.  (I added the Crazy Horse Indian Headdress Logo below the letter). To follow…



Below is the Crazy Horse Indian Headdress Logo. I let you judge.



166 Responses to “A Case Of Trademark Enforcement By Polaris Industries – Indian Motorcycle Against Crazy Horse Motorcycles”

  1. 1 Airwolf Sep 27th, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    My engine has been in CH’s R&D program since the beginning and JW has gone way above and beyond to keep my engine running and my bike on the road. I am an IIRA member and a Patriot Guard Rider who puts a lot of miles on, just turning 63k on my ’03 Roadmaster. While it’s true that JW is quite a controversial individual he did help the IIRA get their domain name back and has assisted many an Indian rider in his day. I wish Crazy Horse much luck in all their endeavors and will watch with interest to see where this whole thing goes.
    The CH logo is not an Indian logo…it was designed with much historical significance in mind and took a lot of work and money to produce and I’m JW will do what is necessary to protect it.

  2. 2 John White Sep 27th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Presley, as i said, I wish no conlfict with you. Read this and then perhaps you will retract some of your claims.

    RALEIGH, N.C. — Indian Motorcycle Company, once a fierce competitor with Harley Davidson, is coming back into business, and its new home will be in North Carolina.

    Indian Motorcycle and Chris-Craft Corporation, a boat manufacturing firm that dates to 1874, said Thursday they will build new manufacturing facilities in Kings Mountain, N.C. Governor Mike Easley announced the new plants.

    Both firms are owned by privately held Stellican, Ltd., an investment firm in London. Stellican bought Chris-Craft out of bankruptcy in 2001.

    The original Indian Motorcycle went out of business in 1954. The new company said it would invest $23 million to open a motorcycle production facility. The assets of the firm had been purchased by the London group. Indian Motorcycle will occupy a plant once operated by International Paper. It plans to hire 167 people.

    “Our primary goal is to return Indian Motorcycle Company to its rightful position as a premium motorcycle brand, selling beautifully designed, high quality products and delivering world-class service,” said David Wright, Indian Motorcycle Company’s president. “North Carolina offers us the skilled workforce and business-friendly atmosphere to make that happen.”

    An Indian brand motorcycle was featured in the 2005 feature film “The World’s Fastest Indian” starring Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins played the role of a New Zealander who set speed records in the 1960s on a restored 1920 Indian motorcycle.

    Average wages at the company are expected to be $47,000 a year plus benefits.

    Indian Motorcycle brand production models are considered collector’s items. Manufacturing dates back to 1902.

    The company plans to introduce the “Indian Chief” motorcycle in the second half of 2007. The firm said it would begin putting together a “network” of dealerships starting early next year.

    “We will apply the same practical and long-term approach to Indian as we have employed successfully at Chris-Craft,” said Stephen Julius, chairman of both Indian Motorcycle and Chris-Craft. “We are confident we will repeat our success with Indian by remaining true to the rich heritage of this incredible brand and doing things slowly and thoroughly. We are certain that there is an important role for Indian in the future of the American motorcycle market.

    The relocation of the firms from Sarasota, FL. is expected to create 807 new jobs over the next five years, Easley said.

    Chris-Craft said it would move its yacht division to a former Daimler-Chrysler facility in Kings Mountain. The company plans to hire 640 people and to invest $19 million in its new plant.

    Both companies will receive One North Carolina Fund and Job Development Investment Grants as well as local government incentives.

    Under a 10-year agreement, Chris-Craft and Indian Motorcycle could receive as much as $7.56 million in grants equal to 65 percent of state personal income withholding taxes generated by the creation of new jobs.

    “By choosing North Carolina, these companies offer proof that we have the skilled, knowledge-based workforce needed to support the growth and success of the boat and vehicle manufacturers in our state,” Easley said in a statement.

    Average wages at Chris-Craft are expected to be $32,000 a year plus benefits. Average wages in Cleveland County are $28,700 plus benefits.

    “This state has a workforce with the skills we need to build boats,” said Stephen Heese, Chris-Craft’s president. “Former furniture makers and woodworkers are ideal employees for us.”

    Chris-Craft operations resumed in 2001.

    Other partners participating in the recruiting of the companies included the N.C. Community College System, Cleveland County, City of Kings Mountain, and Duke Energy.

    RELATED TOPICS: Cleveland County

  3. 3 streetglide530 Sep 27th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I think that John forgot more than most of us will ever know about trademark infringment. If you go to the Ape website you will see how many patents that he has on his piledriving equipment. Ape has had several companies try to copy John’s idea’s only to face the consequences of infringement. I also think that with his knowledge of this subject that there are a lot of people jumping the gun with the accusations of infringement. I am sure that he has done his homework and will prevail in this matter. I have worked in the piledriving industry for thirty years and can honestly say that there is no one that is more respected in the industry than John White. (Unless you listen to his competitors) It looks like half the people in this blog are his competitors. If John ends up achieving just half of in the motorcycle industry that he did so far in the piledriving industry then hang on to your asses and enjoy the ride! I currently own a Harley but my next bike will be a Crazy Horse!

  4. 4 John White Sep 27th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Presley, I wrote this in my response to you a few posts back:

    Yea, we sell engines everyday but no we have not delivered one per day.

    After reading the claims that came out of Indian you can see that not all “dreams” come true. At least I did not take funds from a government agency. What do you think the citizens have to say about the sudden departure of Indian Motorcycles? So Presley, I am not here to pepper you with false claims that you have made about me. I did not duck your questions. I answered them.


  5. 5 "Jaw Bolt" Sep 27th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Any one who wants to “bash” John White or degrade him does not know him. The motorcycle industry is blessed to have a person like John………………………any industry would be. John is a stickler to see that a consumer gets a good reliable product. How do you think “Crazy Horse” was started ? By John buying one of Indian’s lemmons………………..and Indian trying to snowball the public, I guess snowball touches the matter lightly. Anytime a big company closes the doors with money in the bank and turns their back on their customers is a sad day in any business. There are still alot of people out there that think they just went bankrupt………………..alot of us know diffrent.

    John White started out years ago in 1974 when he got out of the US Marine Corp and started in the foundation equipment business as a field mechanic. He worked hard long hours in that business, often on his own time to learn all he could about anything pertaining to that business. Over the years he landed with the largest manufacturer of foundation equipment in the business at the time.

    Being the expert he had become he was always on the owners to build a better product for the customer, something they didn’t want to hear.

    Out of frustration John ventured out and built what he had always known was the best vibro pile hammer a manufacture could offer. That was the start of “American Pile Driving Equipment” or APE now the largest manufacture of foundation equipment in the world..

    John demands that APE builds and delivers the best in the indusry, always looking for better ideas, protecting them with patents. John demands the same frm the people that work for him & APE.

    This is the same ground work and ideas that Crazy horse runs on. John is a person who demands no dissatisfyed customers……………….no matter what it takes. Once again I think the motor cycle industry is very luck to have a person like John……………………for those of you who think diffrent you really need to know the real John White, not jumping on the band wagon with a bunch of misled bloggers.

  6. 6 Steve J Sep 27th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Riot.. Just goes to show you. If you don’t know jack shit about a subject, you can always just start talking shit about the man.. Hell it works in politics..

    Back to the original topic.. The Polaris letter is a brush back pitch. It’s designed to frighten and intimidate..

    For Crazy Horse, this isn’t the first time this has seen daylight. Kings Mtn tossed a similar pitch a few years ago. It went nowhere. That previous Kings Mtn action actually makes Polaris’s job of making this recent complaint stick much more difficult. However, as both parties have substantial funding, I’m sure the process will continue, and ultimately the lawyers and arbitrators will sort it all out and bill out accordingly.

    Crazy Horse aside, there are other entities out there that are indeed at risk. And unfortunately Polaris has the duty to police its trademark, or risk losing it.

    For some smaller vendors, a letter like this one will be enough. Ironic thing is, some of the very vendors that have kept the name alive, (or even worth owning for that matter), are the ones that will be impacted the most. Either they will be forced into a licensing agreement, (If Polaris chooses to allow it), or close the doors.

    I wish Polaris the best. But in this case I think they are trying to drive a thumbtack with a sledgehammer. Muscling people with attorneys and going after the little guy makes them look more and more like the company they seek to replace.

  7. 7 Henry Sep 27th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Hey. John White should stop asking all his friends in the pile driving business to comment positively about him. It’s getting quite funny. Nobody here care about the pile driving business! Wrong website. What is a Crazy Horse motorcycle? Can we see one? I can’t wait. Or is it just a model in his imagination. Just again another way to talk? LOL.

  8. 8 kc cheef Sep 27th, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Henry.
    Why wouldn’t Johns friends in the piledriving business be allowed to make posts supporting him?
    Looks to me like most of the posts from his friends support his character.
    Looks like most of his friends speak from direct experience.
    Do you know John personally?
    Have you experienced the Crazy Horse approach to customers and support?
    Or are you just yakking?
    I recognize some of the posters, and I’m noticing that most of them do ride.
    As for the Crazy Horse motorcycle?
    If you can’t wait to see one why not ride up to Kent and take a look at the early prototype?
    It’s there–I’ve ridden it around 6,000 miles so far.
    Yes–it does carry a lot of Gilroy Indian on it right now–but it also carries some pretty nice innovation also.
    Personally I like the hell out of it and plan to purchase one of the first after it becomes available.
    LOT of work to do on it yet and a lot of changes to be made.
    Henry–can you explain exactly WHAT your problem is with John and Crazy Horse?
    Are you forming your own opinion from experience?
    Or are you sheepling along?

    Where did big al get off to?
    I still want to send some of his money off to Make a Wish.
    Hey big (ahem) al–you gonna make good on your offer to bet?

  9. 9 kc cheef Sep 27th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Nice post on the Kings Mountain fiasco John.
    Is there anyhting the people of Kings Mountain can do to recover some of the loss?
    Seems a pretty shabby way of doing business.
    Indian packed up and hauled ass out of their.
    How is the boat division doing?
    Last i heard it was almost gone also.
    Seems like a lot was given–and a lot was taken– and some promises were broken.

    Hate to see anyone lose their job in todays world.
    I’d hate worse to think they were given jobs with no solid foundation in place to keep those jobs.

  10. 10 Knucklehead Sep 27th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    1953 Indian went bankrupt. Now does this mean they will have to jack hammer the monument also.

  11. 11 Benner Sep 27th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Wow, just wasted some time in my life I’ll never get back reading all this, 160+ posts and less than a handful actually deal with the topic.

    By John’s own admission, he sometimes doesn’t know when to to shut up.
    He has a passion for motorcycles and all things motorcycle, sometimes the passion takes over and the previous sentence is the result. I’ve personally told him that before.

    I have never seen or heard of John intentionally trying to hurt anyone. If one ever chooses to spend a little time listening and talking to him they will find he is a good man with a good heart.
    With that said, my opinions are really as worthless as the rest in this blog, but it’s how i feel.

    Crazy Horse is a mom and pop start up. Nothing more nothing less. They are trying to grow and do the right thing by helping others. There just happens to be a target on their back for whatever reason.

    Nothing we say or do on this blog has anything to do with the fact there is question being raised between Polaris and Crazy Horse. It’s not our fight nor our business (personal or professional).

    I am a nobody, nothing more than a biker that is happy to be running a V-Plus mill in my scooter.

  12. 12 Scooter45 Sep 27th, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    My conclusion is that White is suffering a lot from being an unknown and Is finding pleasure in getting his 1 minute of fame by having Polaris targeting him for plagiarism. Pathetic.

  13. 13 Airwolf Sep 27th, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    What is pathetic about marketing or viral marketing? John is certainly not an unknown in either the pile driving business or the MC world. Quite the opposite in fact.

    This is one of the premiere MC blogs in the world…good for him! He certainly doesn’t need 1 minute of fame here though…seems like most have already made up their mind one way or the other anyhow.

    I can’t wait to see how this plays out… I’m a big fan of Indian and Crazy Horse both.

  14. 14 kc cheef Sep 27th, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    You still out there?
    I’m awaiting my education on the fork lug issue as well as the EFI problems.

    That forklug just really intrigues me.
    It just amazes me that a problem that significant is kind of like ignored by KM and Polaris.
    I REALLY wonder if Polaris was informed?
    That FI problem has left a lot of folks shaking their heads also.

    Hey ppscoutrider rumor I’m hearing is you have your KM up for sale.
    Any truth to that?
    Or is someone pulling my leg?

  15. 15 Brett Ray Sep 28th, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Sorry I did it again. “Long” I start out for a quick point and the next thing you know.

    Wow! Some of you act about like a 3 year old, and make about as much sense when it comes to an intelligent conversation.
    I can tell you this, after reading some of the comments on here I am ready to donate design, machining and build time. Just to get a bike built, get it on the road and into production just to shut you whiners up. That or just … never mind.

    Anyway, more to the point. I love the way some of you just automatically side with Polaris because they sent out a letter. A letter by the way, with the facts as they see them.
    I have been through this with Harley. A bunch of people of course jumped right on the H-D band wagon. What a piece of crap I was stealing from Harley. Most of the ones talking had no idea what the law suit was really even about. But they never knew what went on behind the scenes.
    Let me give you a little insight.
    One day I wanted to do something different. So I built an airplane and put a Harley engine on it. I designed and built a prop drive that would bolt on the engine and went flying. I of course had to listen to all the people say things like, it can’t be done. You don’t know what you’re doing. I will never fly, etc, etc. I just smiled and kept working.

    I started flying it around and now people seemed to love it. Those people even included some Harley executives. Yep, I had flown it to the Oshkosh air show where they just happened to see it. They wanted to talk, and we did. There were talks about Harley shop appearances and things like that. I mean what could have been a better way to promote your new engine? Then the tone of the talk seemed to start to change. The engine and drive started to get a lot more attention. It was featured in some magazines and TV shows. So I started selling engine packages to others, and the business really started to grow. It seemed H-D still wanted to do a lot with it, just without me involved. I said forget it.

    Then it began the first letter from the lawyers. They said I couldn’t call it a Harley-Davidson engine. What? I bought it from a Harley dealership it was all Harley. So off to court we went. I won. Then another letter came. This one said “by rights the drive and all the design rights belong to them”. Again, WHAT? They said because it will bolt to their motor it’s their’. So.. off to court again. Well by now I was pissed. So it’s on.
    You see where this is going yet?
    So it went, sued for a sticker on it that said “Powered by Harley”. Then they sued me for the name “HOG AIR”, then for my web site, etc. Now keep in mind my lawyer and even a Judge said on most of the suits they have no chance to win. Hell one time they flew in 4 or 5 lawyers in privet jets from all over the country. Well guess what, pretty soon I was broke. Worse than broke, now I was in debt. I even sold the plane to get money. But I didn’t care, it was the principle. But principles don’t pay the bills. So at some point I just had to quit. So in the end they win by default. That was a few years ago and I am still trying to pull out of it. To this day I still have $0 in my savings account. Now that it’s all said and done people ask me, was it all worth it? If you had it all to do again, would you? HELL YES I WOULD! In fact I’m looking for something else right now that I can do to stir the s—t pot.
    So I have to stand behind John on this one. Not that I’m saying one way or another who is right or who is wrong. I simply don’t have near enough facts to make that call. Like I said before, it really doesn’t affect me. But I would much rather see money go into a new motorcycle company than a bunch of lawyers pockets. Maybe that’s just me. As for some of you, damn. I wish I had that kind of insight and knew the facts and out come before it even goes to court. I’d be a Millionaire.
    If this dispute does end up in court and John ends up wining, will those of you that are so quick to point fingers be as quick to say “I’m sorry I was wrong”. Somehow I think not. I never heard anyone say they were wrong when my plane flew, or when I beat H-D in court and proved them wrong.

  16. 16 JH Sep 28th, 2011 at 8:16 am


    Very interesting story. Unfortunately, you are not the first one that I have read about that experienced the same thing with Harley. Legal fees beat the small man down not matter how good his ideas are. That is too bad…. what happened to the American dream?

    Sounds like you are a guy with great ideas… I hope things work out for you.

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