Fat Guy in a Little [Suit]…
It has been almost 10 years since the passing of the comic legend Chris Farley, but his name is as recognizable as ever. Make Him Smile, Inc., which is the successor to his property rights, is asserting those rights against Trek in a recently-filed California lawsuit regarding Trek’s FARLEY brand bicycle.
A quick search of the US Patent & Trademark Office records reveals a number of FARLEY trademarks not readily associated with Chris Farley. For example, there are U.S. trademark registrations for FARLEY’S snack foods and candy; FARLEY’S FOOD, FUN & PUB for restaurant services; and FARLEY’S for restaurant, bar and lounge services.
Trek claims that it has never used Chris Farley’s likeness, image or endorsement in connection to its FARLEY line of bikes. Trek even owns a U.S. trademark registration for FARLEY for bicycles, and has for over three years. And, Chris Farley, who once demanded, “lay off me I’m starving,” tends to be associated more with food and “a van down by the river” than exercise on a bike. So why is Trek in the cross-hairs?
The devil is in the details, as they say. More specifically, the suit alleges that the CEO and majority shareholder of Trek currently lives in Maple Bluff, Wisconsin, the same village in which Chris Farley was born and raised. It also claims the Farley and Burke families socialized and attended Maple Bluff Country Club.
The suit further alleges that Trek chose the FARLEY trademark because it knows “Farley was well known to the specific and targeted generation of consumers that tend to purchase Fat Bikes, and that by creating an association between the ‘loud,’ ‘fat,’ ‘Midwestern’ Farley and the Farley Branded “Fat Bike” Products, they would be able to attract the attention of such consumers who immediately recognized the Farley name and its association with ‘fat,’ ‘loud,’ ‘wide’ and ‘Midwestern’ goods and services.”
The suit is just underway. Trek indicates that it has been in conversations with Farley family representatives to try to resolve that matter even before the filing of the suit, but that it will vigorously defend itself if necessary. We will have to ride out this journey to see where it ends.
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