Harley-Davidson: A Perfect Example of a Brand Survivor and Protector

Many times, people hear them before they see them. Whether individually or grouped in a crowd, they come rumbling loudly and distinctly. Dressed in shiny chrome, tailored colors, personal insignias, and unique designs, Harley-Davidson motorcycles make a big statement. So big in fact that they make up approximately half of the U.S. motorcycle industry. In 2017, company revenue reached $5.65 billion with 242,788 retail motorcycle sales worldwide. No other motorcycle company compares with the strong customer base that surrounds the Harley-Davidson brand. Its Harley Owners Group (HOG) boasts more than 1,000 chapters and more than one million members around the world. The company even has a Harley-Davidson Museum located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that showcases 450 motorcycles, attracting an estimated 300,000 visitors annually.

This year, Harley-Davidson celebrates its 115th anniversary, which is no small feat for any company, let alone one that offers nonessential products. Over the years, Harley-Davidson has endured depressions, wars, and strong competitors, and still reigns in the motorcycle industry today. It has offered hundreds of models in three broad categories: touring motorcycles, cruiser motorcycles, and sportsters & street bikes. However, while motorcycles are at the crux of the brand, its merchandise is no small factor in the success of the company. In fact, in 2016, the brand’s clothing accounted for 5% of total sales, at nearly $285 million.

Since clothing and the overall use of the brand name contributes to the success of the company, Harley-Davidson aggressively pursued an infringement case against print-on-demand T-shirt company SunFrog. SunFrog’s service allows customers to design T-shirts and store the designs in the company’s online database, in which other customers can use. This method makes it easy for customers to use a company logo to design a shirt and then give access to that design to countless other customers. In this case, more than 100 instances of infringement occurred using Harley-Davidson’s designs, to which Harley-Davidson objected. As a result, Harley-Davidson won the biggest awarded trademark infringement case in history at $19.2 million.

This verdict comes at a crucial time for Harley-Davidson as the company faces a slump with 2017 representing the third annual decline in sales. This slump forces the company to close its Kansas City, MO factory and to focus on other ways to build sales. However, as history has proven, Harley-Davidson is a survivor with a powerful brand. After all, it is one of the most recognized brands in the world. With new target market demographics such as women, minorities, and young adults, an electric motorcycle in the near future, ever-evolving models, and consistent protection of its brand, Harley-Davidson may survive another 100+ years!

Trademarked Scents a Rarity

Trademarking a scent is an uncommon event. This is because scents usually serve as a particular function, such as perfumes or air fresheners, where their purpose is to make something smell a certain way. Therefore, scents are typically patented rather than trademarked. While patents often protect something that serves a function, trademarks typically help consumers associate certain products with a brand. Trademarks that are most familiar include logos, symbols, and slogans. However, scents, sounds, and colors may also serve as trademarks, but trying to prove that they work as trademarks is a hard sell.

To trademark a scent, the scent must be distinctive, reminding consumers of a particular product. However, this is a rare occasion. In fact, only 13 active scent trademark registrations exist today. Although distinctive smells surround us daily, we do not typically think of a particular company or product to attach that smell to. For instance, while McDonald’s French fries or even a Starbucks coffee may have a particular smell, these smells are not distinctive enough to separate them from other fast food French Fries or coffee. For instance, when we smell greasy fries, we do not automatically think of McDonald’s. We typically just associate that smell with French fries in general.

Therefore, obtaining a trademark for a scent is a remarkable feat. However, in May of this year, Hasboro joined an elite group of scent trademark owners. The USPTO determined that the Play-Doh scent is distinctive enough for consumers to associate it with the product. Given that Hasboro has sold more than 3 billion cans of Play-Doh since 1956 and sells 100 million cans annually, it is likely that millions of people have become familiar with the scent. This means that the scent is unique enough that when consumers smell it, it reminds them of Play-Doh. It means that the scent is like no other. In comparison to other companies that have been awarded trademarks for scents, Hasboro’s Play-Doh scent was likely incidental based on its ingredients. This means that the company likely did not purposefully create a scent for its products like Verizon did to help customers associate its scent with Verizon stores. Rather, the mixed ingredients just had a particular scent that worked to Hasboro’s advantage. Filing for a trademark for that scent was a smart business move for Hasboro.

Could Blockchain Technology Be the Game Changer in Combatting Cybercrime?

Cybercrime poses a huge threat, costing the world an estimated $600 billion in 2017, up from $450+ billion in 2016. Among cybercrime is the threat of identity theft. In 2017, 16.7 million U.S. citizens were victims of identity theft at a $16.8 billion cost, up from 15.4 million victims at a $16.2 billion cost in 2016. These statistics indicate that cybercrime is a serious problem that continues to climb at a rapid rate.

Cybercrime can happen in a variety of ways including sending unsolicited emails, illegally downloading music, stealing personal bank account information, creating computer viruses, and so much more. With all of these options, it’s no wonder cybercrime is so high! Furthermore, technology changes so rapidly that businesses and individuals often use outdated technology. Using outdated technology presents a host of opportunities for cybercrime to occur.

As cybercrime continues to create challenges, companies continue to improve technology. A relatively new concept called blockchains is on the horizon, which may be the game changer in slowing down cybercrime. Blockchains are digital registers that permanently and securely store transactions. This technology uses a hierarchical method to save data in blocks, with each block pointing to a previous block with a timestamp of each transaction. This method makes it easy to trace and audit transactions. It is also a secure way of tracking transactions as data saved in blocks cannot be modified or breached. In addition, the decentralization of blockchains makes it hard for cybercrime to occur.

While the technology is in its infant stages, interest continues to increase. According to Statista, the blockchain technology market will rise from an estimated $210 million in 2016 to an estimated $2.3 billion by 2021. An increase in blockchain patent filings corroborates a significant increase in the field as blockchain patent applications more than doubled in 2017 with more than 1200 applications compared to 594 in 2016. Some of the biggest companies in the world are conducting research and filing patent applications, including Sony, Google, Microsoft, Bank of America, Walmart, MasterCard, IBM, and many others. Blockchains can support a variety of industries that conduct many transactions such as finance, real estate, healthcare, music, insurance, and many others, as evidenced by the various types of companies filing for patent protection.

As blockchain technology becomes more mainstream and more companies continue to file patent protection, potential exists for combatting cybercrime on a higher level.