A Moderated Message Board 

Things to see and attend during the Sturgis Rally

Moderators: longhair, Copperhead, Leadhand, EM2

 #980935  by randee
 Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:20 pm
Rushmore Photo & Gifts and the Niemann’s Prevail in the ‘Sturgis’ Trademark Case

April 3, 2019 --- RAPID CITY --- Rushmore Photo & Gifts and the Niemann family always believed that Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc’s (“SMRI”) claim as the “official” sponsor of the Rally and the owner of the Rally’s intellectual property was wrong. But it took the Niemann’s appealing to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend this belief.

They were finally vindicated. Big Time. The appellate court ruled in November 2018 that SMRI, the corporate entity that ran a trademark licensing program related to Rally merchandise, did not own or have valid trademark rights to the name “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Rally & Races,” or “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.” Indeed, the Eighth Circuit found that those marks were invalid and unenforceable, and not owned by anyone. Therefore, SMRI could not prevent Rushmore Photo & Gifts from using these particular names on promotional products. As a result, the supposed legitimacy of SMRI’s “Sturgis” licensing program, past and present, is called into serious question.

Until the Niemann’s and Rushmore Photo & Gifts prevailed at the Eighth Circuit, a South Dakota district court had in place a permanent injunction on the use of those marks, which ultimately represented hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business for Rushmore Photo & Gifts and its owners. The Niemann’s have been fighting what they believe to be an unjust trademark infringement lawsuit brought by SMRI for over seven years.

The Eighth Circuit found that SMRI did not prove secondary meaning for “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Rally & Races,” or “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally;” therefore, none of the names are or were owned by SMRI or protected as trademarks. The appellate court also concluded that neither “SMRI [n]or its predecessors-in-interest were or are the owner, organizer or sponsor of the Rally or have come to acquire the rally’s intellectual property rights.” Importantly, SMRI did not appeal any of these Eighth Circuit rulings. As a result of these unchallenged rulings, the foundation of SMRI’s trademark licensing program is gone.

In February of 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, Western Division, issued an order reiterating the following:

The “Sturgis” mark is invalid
U.S. Registration Nos. 3,923,284 and 4,440,4061 for “Sturgis” are both invalid and subject to cancellation
The “Sturgis Rally & Races” mark is invalid
The “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally” mark is invalid

In its 79th year, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will likely attract 500,000 or more people. As retailers begin to place orders for rally-related merchandise, they can rest assured that “Sturgis,” Sturgis Rally & Races,” and “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally” are no longer off limits for use in the public domain, despite what SMRI might say.

Rushmore Photo & Gifts, Inc. is one of the largest providers of souvenirs in the Midwest, with service areas covering the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. A leader in the industry for more than 80 years, RPG offers a complete line of quality souvenirs and a full-service program to match individual needs. For more information, visit our website at

Brian Niemann
RPG Souvenirs