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Trademark infringement award for Sturgis rally set aside

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) -- A federal judge has vacated a nearly $1 million trademark infringement award made to the owners of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally brand.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., which owns the Sturgis logo, sued Walmart and a Rapid City retailer for allegedly improperly using the Sturgis trademark on merchandise. A jury awarded $912,500 to SMRI following a civil trial in October 2015, the Rapid City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/2mnnZYY ).

Federal Judge Jeffrey Viken upheld SMRI's trademark rights, but set aside the jury award against the defendants.

In the trial, the two companies said that the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce lied when it convinced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to grant the "Sturgis" trademark. The argument was that because Sturgis is a geographical name, it could not be trademarked.

The jury still disagreed, deciding in favor of SMRI.

Minneapolis attorney Aaron Davis represented Rushmore Photos & Gifts in Rapid City and Walmart.

"Judge Viken upheld SMRI's trademark rights per se, but the damages finding against the defendants has been vacated, dismissed basically," Davis said. "There is no money judgment that survives this court order."

He said the ruling doesn't mean the case is over, pending an appeal by the plaintiffs. But he said the judge's decision is "a huge burden off of our clients."

"We weren't overjoyed with the judge's ruling deferring to the jury that SMRI had the (trademark) rights and that may be a point of appeal in the future," Davis said. "We feel strongly that they don't have any rights to this trademark at all."

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com