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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc. Keeps Telling Licensees Its Trademarks Are Valid While Courts Keep Insisting They Are Not

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As many of you will be aware, there is a small town in South Dakota, Sturgis, that turns into the place to be if you're into motorcycle rallies. Many of you may not be aware, however, that this rally and town have become the center of a years-running trademark dispute. Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc. (SMRI), which helps put on the rally, moved to trademark the name of the town and the rally, and then began bullying local Sturgis businesses for daring to use the town's name or the name of the event. This was done, according to SMRI, for the purpose of protecting the event and town, which makes little to no sense. In the end, the two trademarks in question were one that was a geographical name and one that was almost purely descriptive of a social event.As it turns out, subsequent rulings on the matter did not go in SMRI's favor. This is creating some confusion in Sturgis, as SMRI's strategy for dealing with the legal losses appears to be simply pretending that they didn't occur.

Despite court rulings in the past year making some Sturgis Motorcycle Rally trademarks invalid, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc., continues to maintain the validity of the marks.In emails and letters to licensees in recent months, the not-for-profit organization, which oversees the licensing of the trademarks, tells licensees all marks are still valid.“It continues to be SMRI’s position that all of its trademarks are valid and protectable and enforceable. SMRI expects further court proceedings to address those issues with finality,” said Jason Sneed, SMRI’s attorney. But in the past year, two separate courts ruled that SMRI did not own or have valid trademark rights to names “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Rally & Races,” and “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.”
I'll say this: it's a bold strategy. I'm apparently not as creative as the folks at SMRI, because I never would have thought of the solution to multiple courts telling me my trademarks are invalid might simply be to say, "Nuh-uh!" This does cause one to question what the repercussions for this behavior might be, however, as extracting money out local businesses by asserting trademark rights the legal system insists you don't have certainly does sound like fraud.Some of the folks on the receiving end of SMRI's bullying agree and want their fellow local businesses alerted to the truth.
Rushmore Photo & Gifts, Inc., owned by the Niemann family of Rapid City, has long produced souvenir items containing the words “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Rally & Races,” and “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.” “They (SMRI) have snubbed their noses at Viken and the 8th Circuit ruling,” said Brian Niemann, president of Rushmore Photo & Gifts. “We have filed a motion to have Viken reach out to them and stop them from basically lying to their licensees.”
It seems obvious that the misrepresentation by SMRI cannot be allowed to continue. It's also obvious that the granting of these trademarks that never should have been granted is not doing the town and rally any good, no matter what SMRI has said in the past. Again, if the Trademark Office had put just a little more thought into these applications, all of this could have been avoided.

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Open Source Makes Kodi Add-ons Proliferate -- And Hard To Eradicate

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As Techdirt noted a year ago, the entertainment industry has been trying to convince the authorities around the world that "fully-loaded" Kodi boxes, which allow the viewing of unauthorized video streams, are the devil's spawn, and must be eradicated. That obsession has led to efforts to stop even vanilla Kodi boxes being promoted and sold, despite the fact that the open source software they run is perfectly legal. TorrentFreak has a report about the latest salvo in this war on Kodi, and its interesting consequences.It concerns a third-party Kodi add-on called "Exodus", which, like many others, allowed unauthorized streaming videos to be viewed with little effort. The excellent design and resulting popularity of Exodus meant that it was soon targeted by copyright companies. The pressure worked, and the development of the add-on was halted, leaving millions of happy users somewhat less happy. But Exodus had an important hidden feature: it was released under an open source license. That meant that anyone could pick up the code and continue its development independently of the original, without needing to ask permission from anyone. As TorrentFreak points out, that is precisely what has happened, and on a surprisingly large scale. The TVAddons site recently published an article that discusses 12 forks of Exodus, which is only part of the Exodus ecosystem: "Too many Exodus forks are out there to investigate them all."This "hydra" effect -- chop off one head, and two grow in its place -- makes eliminating open-source add-ons for Kodi extremely difficult. Although individual developers may be persuaded to stop working on a particular fork, the code is still out there, and can easily be maintained and improved by others. Since the latter can be anywhere in the world, that makes shutting them down even harder. However, TorrentFreak rightly notes that this doesn't mean that the efforts of the copyright companies are entirely in vain:

the continued efforts from rightsholders to shut down these add-ons may have a more subtle effect. While hardcore pirates will always find a new fork, there's also a group of people who will get frustrated by the repeated shutdowns, and give up eventually.
That's certainly true, but it's not an insurmountable problem. For example, it would be straightforward for developers to create a common standard for key aspects of their add-ons that would allow simple switching between them. That way, once one add-on was shut down, non-technical users could migrate easily to new ones, perhaps even automatically. When the code is open source, there is no problem with proprietary rights being asserted over programming modules or configuration files -- another reason why developers may decide to adopt it when writing Kodi add-ons.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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