Sturgis is continuing the fight to trademark the city name in 2020
STURGIS, S.D. — The battle to trademark the city name has been an ongoing fight for decades. Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie doesn’t foresee it being over anytime soon.
“What’s happening now, is that we are having discussions with SMRI [Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc.] as to what their plan is to proceed,” said Ainslie. “As well as we’re having our own internal discussions. The first major step is that our first council meeting in January we will be having a public discussion about charitable funding.”
In December, Rapid City based judge Chief Justice Jeffrey Viken confirmed a previous ruling that trademarking ‘Sturgis’ was considered unenforceable.
The trademark story starts back in 1996, when a local businessman suggested an idea that would ensure positive returns come back to Sturgis for hosting the motorcycle rally every year. The idea was to trademark ‘Sturgis’ so that each time it was used a dollar would be given back to the community.
“It would go back to the community in the sense of actually having tangible improvements made,” Ainslie said. “So some of the things that have been done are a waterslide at the community center, bleachers at a lot of the different athletic fields throughout the community, different things like that.”
In 2011, SMRI attempted to stop Rushmore Photo and Gifts from using the name ‘Sturgis’ on its products. Four years later a jury was found in favor of SMRI but later on a judge would overturn that decision.
February, last year, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the trademark of the name was invalid.
“We’re not sure how the suit is going to be continuing to be brought forward in the coming months and years,” Ainslie said. “I imagine it’s probably not over, but really as a city we are trying to take more of a leadership role in it to try and make sure there is more clarity, I think, for a lot of the consumers as well as for the industry itself.”