Harley-Davidson Demands Next Destroy ‘Copycat’ Logo T-Shirts

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Harley-Davidson has accused Next of copying its logo with “motorbike-inspired” graphics on children’s T-shirts, igniting a High Court dispute.

The US motorcycle manufacturer insists that the British retailer destroys a range of long-sleeve T-shirts featuring biker angel wings with flames, which it argues “essentially replicates” its branding.

According to court documents seen by the Financial Times, Harley-Davidson claims that the T-shirts incorporate “graphic material and text which is…commonly seen in the context of motorcycle-based branding and more specifically the claimants’ branding”.

The T-shirts, available for children aged 3 to 16, are described on Next’s website as featuring a “motorbike-inspired graphic with flame sleeve prints”. Harley-Davidson asserts that the design would “call [Harley’s imagery] to mind for many members of the public” and potentially cause “confusion on the part of the relevant average consumer”.

Both Next and Harley-Davidson declined to comment on the ongoing legal proceedings.

This lawsuit is the latest in a series of high-profile legal actions by Harley-Davidson, which generates around 5% of its revenues from clothing sales. Last year, the company earned $244 million (£192 million) from apparel sales, out of a total revenue of $4.85 billion.

While the majority of Harley-Davidson’s revenue is still derived from the sale of motorcycles, accessories, and parts, the company has faced challenges with declining demand for its higher-end models. In April, Harley-Davidson reported a 23% profit slump for its first quarter, attributing the decline to higher borrowing costs impacting demand for more expensive motorcycles. Chief executive Jochen Zeitz noted, “We’re really just entering the riding season … and a lot depends on the second quarter, which is why we have not changed our guidance at this point in time.”

The company has projected that its motorcycle business revenue will either remain flat or decrease by up to 9% this year.

The dispute with Next follows a notable legal battle with Urban Outfitters in 2017. Harley-Davidson sued Urban Outfitters over allegations that it was selling “mutilated” versions of its shirts. The case involved accusations that Urban Outfitters had cut sleeves and labels off Harley-Davidson shirts and replaced them with its own “Urban Renewal” branding. The dispute was settled with Urban Outfitters agreeing to cease selling all Harley-branded merchandise.

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