Did HD sue Honda T or F? - Honda Shadow Forums : Shadow Motorcycle Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-27-2007, 11:31 PM Thread Starter
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Did HD sue Honda T or F?

Hey there !

I was talking to a friend today and between the conversation I mentioned how Honda was sued by HD because of the similar sound.. he asked me if this was true.. I said, well .. let me check ! hehe

Did some research on the Internet, but I can only find forums or blogs with histories, but nothing serious..

Do you guys know a link where the story is? Is it that HD sued Honda or was it that they just wanted to sue anyone who will make a similar exhaust sound?

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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 12:26 AM
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Never heard that, HD did try to patent the sound but I don't think they could.

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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 12:44 AM
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I think they tried through the attempt of trademarking the sound, but it pretty much went nowhere and fizzled out. Here is an article I found on the web about it from http://www.straightdope.com/columns/000915.html .

Dear Cecil:

A few days ago a colleague at work asked me, "Does Harley-Davidson have a patent on the sound of their exhaust?" I thought he was kidding. I never heard of the government granting a patent on a particular sound. Then a friend of mind told me H-D won a lawsuit against one of the "rice burner" bike manufacturers because they had (electronically) duplicated the sound of the Harley! What gives? Can you really patent the exhaust sound of an infernal--strike that--internal-combustion engine? --Jens, Glenview, Illinois

Cecil replies:

Not a patent, Jens. A trademark. You patent an invention; you secure trademark rights in a symbol associated with your company or product. Sure, you can get one on a sound. MGM registered the roar of its lion as a trademark, and NBC registered its three-toned chime as a service mark. Hadn't heard that chime in years, but as soon as I saw it mentioned, it popped into my mind, practical proof that sounds can be potent symbols. Trouble is, when I think of Harley, I think of Hell's Angels, the Harley logo, and the word hog (which Harley also tried to register). But--and I realize this may say negative things about my testosterone level--I don't think of a particular sound, which might explain why Harley withdrew its application to register the engine sound earlier this year.

Harley aficionados, and of course the company itself, see it differently. To them the Harley sound, said to resemble "potato-potato-potato," is as distinctive as the Energizer bunny. (Judge for yourself with the sound clips at newsport.sfsu.edu/archive/f96/sounds/pending.html). When Japanese motorcycle makers began horning in on the Milwaukee company's hog market with their own heavy-duty bikes in the 1980s, Harley felt they were trying to duplicate the rumble of the V-Twin engine, which buyers supposedly seek out. Maybe, though if you ask me they mostly want something loud enough to scare the crap out of guys in Honda Civics. The Japanese put it more diplomatically when fighting Harley's trademark request, arguing that all big motorcycles sound pretty much the same. After six years of legal proceedings and no resolution in sight, Harley caved, claiming it had won in the court of public opinion, etc. Just as well. Can you imagine the trademark infringement suits?

Harley lawyer: "Your honor, our competitor's ripoff of our product purposely goes potato-potato-potato."

Rice-burner lawyer: "Nonsense, it goes poTAHto-poTAHto-poTAHto. Motion to call the whole thing off."

Here is another story link about HD dropping the suit:


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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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Cool !

Thank you very much for the info.. it's kind of silly to want to "trademark" a sound .. but then again, that's one of the charasteristics of those bikes.. I'm just glad I don't have the spend so much money to get a bike that sounds like that hehe

Thanks again !!

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 01:19 AM
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In the last article they say harley davidson is a Heavy weight so does that make honda a middle weight?, or is that the legal terms that kept this at bay and out of court!!!
At the Honda Homecoming a bike went by in the parade of lights and my wife said OOO there's a real bike. (her dad has two harleys and ahem a Shadow) I saw the bike and said " Honey that is the same bike I have it just has a set of nice pipes on it". Of course she knew that.
Yet another situation was when my buddy and I rode to Indian Lake in the morning and later that evening my neighbor comes over and says, " Your buddies harley woke me up this morning, that thing is awesome". I replied with " Well Scott that was actually a Honda ACE with Cobra pipes".
So should harley sue other manufactuers OR aftermarket companies? Who supply the exhaust systems that sound so Mmm Mmm good. Uh, how much money would they lose on that deal? Are they gonna sue another American company trying to keep a business with American workers or is the government going to get involved and say well you do get nice aftermarket parts and this and that and

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 08:10 AM
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If I'm not mistaken, Harley did sue another motorcycle manufacturer, but it was Yamaha. Yamaha had developed their V-Twin in the same configuration and angle as Harley (45) and had an almost identical sound. Yamaha had to change the angle between cylinders (now 48) and also the pushrod covers because they were protected under law for Harley.

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 08:34 AM
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And if i recall correctly HD also tried to sue Honda over the fact the ACE 750 looks so much like the Fat Boy..

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 10:11 AM
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True. It was in the 80's with the 86 model. HD sued over the sound that the model produced. If I remember correctly, Honda won the battle.


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by lawncoman
True. It was in the 80's with the 86 model. HD sued over the sound that the model produced. If I remember correctly, Honda won the battle.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2007, 02:09 PM
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I think my ACE sounds better than any of the HD's I owned.

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