Free-Lance Artist Can Proceed With Lawsuit Against Harley-Davidson For Copyright Infringement

A freelance artist who helped create several Harley-Davidson logos between 1970 and 2000 can continue with his copyright infringement case against the motorcycle giant, a federal judge ruled.  In doing so, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman denied Harley’s motion for dismissal and ruled that the statute of limitations does not apply to the case.

 Wayne Wm. Peterson claims that his “Live to Ride” logo, created in 1985, and the “Harley-Davidson University” logo, created in 1991, were part of a “one time one run” agreement that prevented Harley-Davidson from using the images at any time following the limited initial production.

Peterson says that “Harley has, without authorization, continued to use these works on hundreds, if not thousands, of runs of products, packaging material and marketing material since they were created,” and seeks damages for copyright infringement. Harley-Davidson moved to dismiss the suit, claiming that “the lawsuit is bound by the doctrine of laches … [and] that all claims based on alleged acts of infringement that occurred before April 25, 2009, are barred by the three-year statute of limitations under the Copyright Act.”

 However, Adelman wrote that “although the facts alleged indicate that Peterson waited a long time to file this suit, that does not mean that his delay was unreasonable as a matter of law. What is reasonable depends on the totality of the circumstances, and since Peterson had no duty to anticipate a laches defense and pleads facts showing that his delay was reasonable, I do not know what the totality of the circumstances will show. Thus, based on the complaint alone, I cannot determine whether Peterson’s delay was unreasonable.”

11 Responses to “Free-Lance Artist Can Proceed With Lawsuit Against Harley-Davidson For Copyright Infringement”

  1. 1 Toby Aug 3rd, 2012 at 9:50 am

    So, the MOCO’s is essentially saying that, “yeah, we infringed on his copyright, but it’s too late to sue us?”

  2. 2 VanityPrintz Aug 3rd, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I will follow this one. It should be interesting.

  3. 3 chopmonster66 Aug 3rd, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Take the big dog down a notch.If the shoe was on the other foot ,they would be quick to take it to court.
    GOOD LUCK Wayne..

  4. 4 fredp Aug 3rd, 2012 at 11:20 am

    This case will go on for years. You can’t fight the big guy that long. There will be an undisclosed Monetary settlement ( if he’s smart) Otherwise it will be like the movie on the windshield wiper delay system where the engineer claimed as his patent and 30 years later finally got credit, but lost his family and fortune to prove his point.

  5. 5 Steve The Producer Johann Aug 3rd, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    One time use contracts are used in the Ad world all the time. I am sure Cyril could chime in here. It means what it says ONE TIME USE ONLY. It would have to be renogotiated if the company wished to reuse the artwork.

    This is something you learn early on in design school when it comes to doing work for hire or freelance work. You must have a solid contract in place before you do anything otherwise your one time use can become an ongoing use of your work and you dont get paid for it.

    I am not a lawyer though and may be completely off base here. I hope the artist has a solid contract in hand and it can be used. If not he will be out of luck.

  6. 6 industry guy Aug 4th, 2012 at 12:56 am

    go get ’em wayne!

    the motor company will screw anyone they can to make / keep a buck.

    get as much as you can!

  7. 7 Rick Lossner Aug 4th, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Why wait this long? Because he’s done the $ math. If he’s done this earlier it’s of been stopped with no real $ to him. But as others said , HD would do this in a second; they screwed up

  8. 8 Tom Aug 4th, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Reversed HD would do & has done the same…
    Now they whine..????

  9. 9 Rodent Aug 4th, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Ya think Harley might do the righteous thing?

  10. 10 Conejos (Rabbit) Aug 9th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Harley will play “stupid” whenever they think they can get away with it. check this out—- American icon not “all American” Kiro 7 news I tell ya, H.D. is going to get what they have coming one of these days

  11. 11 Jason Hallman (Steelchoppin) Aug 9th, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I don’t even know the details of the lawsuit but I hope he wins it. Harley has gotten out of hand with the constant (and so called) “protection of their intellectual property”. It is an effing joke! Everyone that wears a Harley t-shirt or puts a bar and shield logo on the back window of their truck does nothing but promote the brand and perpetuate the greed in Milwaukee. I hate to say it, but the economy has been too kind to HD and while I wish no ill will on anyone individual, I certainly wish the motor company would have felt just a bit more squeeze than they have. 1980 is not that long ago. Record profits due to over seas sales (where all of our jobs are landing) in India is to thank for that. They still go around bullying little indy shops (like mine) for having a sign that says: “Harley Service & Parts” or god forbid you use their logo. It is stupid. Ford, GM and Chrysler NEVER ever drove around and looked for speed shops that had their signage out in front because they had no fear of the little guy. Harley is a Goliath and I hope that this David knocks them out. It wont even be a blip on the radar at Harley but I will sure get a laugh out of it.

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Cyril Huze