Chrysler Loses Court Battle Over "Imported From Detroit"

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Ronnie Schreiber reckoned that Chrysler would be able to protect its rights to the phrase “Imported From Detroit” in its lawsuit against local clothing firm MODA, but Automotive News [sub] reports that

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ruled that Chrysler’s request didn’t show that it would suffer irreparable harm or that it had a strong likelihood of winning its case. That means Pure Detroit’s owner, Detroit retailer Moda Group LLC, can continue selling its “Imported from Detroit” products.

Tarnow also noted that Chrysler doesn’t have a trademark on “Imported from Detroit” and rejected the automaker’s argument that trademark law isn’t applicable to the case.

Interestingly, the last time Chrysler fought over its brand intellectual property (in a dispute with a Florida high school that had adopted the Ram’s Head logo as its school symbol), it won… only to stop using the the logo for Dodges when it spun off its Ram brand. In any case, this latest ruling may take Chrysler’s tagline out of its complete control, but it should also stimulate a strong market in knock-off goods bearing the line, ultimately increasing its exposure. And, at the end of the day, Chrysler needs to look past Detroit-boosting if it wants to get its marketing back on a nationally-appealing footing and win back sales on the coasts. This ruling may not be sucha bad thing after all….

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  • Zackman Zackman on Jun 28, 2011

    Most of the time, patents are utterly worthless - unless you design something that actually makes you unique, that can be of real benefit to mankind. Registering phrases and such are ludicrous, a waste of corporate resources (especially strapped Chrysler), and a waste of time. Does anyone care if I use the old Brylcreem "A little dab'll do ya"? Does anyone of a certain age ever hear of it? I thought so. If indeed this is used as a publicity stunt, well, what does that say? Perhaps the Chrysler 200 is no good? While I don't believe that at all, the perception may arise. A company I once worked for had this arrogant guy - my boss - get management all riled-up over a carton feature he had patented. Well, the prospective customer, which is an enormous corporation that stood ready to award us a significant chunk of business, wanted exclusive rights to the design. A nasty patent fight ensued, and ALL the business we did with that customer disappeared (over 9 million dollars)! I found a better job after seeing the writing on the wall, my old company sold off our entire division and they eventually got rid of my former boss. Who's "winning" now? To use a Beatles' song title to Chrysler: "Let it Be".

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Jun 28, 2011

    Scoff all you want at the "Imported from Detroit" campaign, in this GM centric locale (SWMI) there are more 200's roaming the streets than there were ever Sebrings. I was at a Super Bowl party with a bunch of 30 somethings, many of whom own/drive higher end foreign metal. After the commercial ended, they were up on their feet cheering. I was totally confused, honestly. I didn't think it would resonate with Gen X and Gen Y, but they definitely were into it. One cardinal rule in advertising, is if it works, RUN with it. I don't blame Chrysler/Fiat for doing so. But too bad they can't work this stuff out with out going to lawsuit. But as we've noted before, if you don't protect your IP, you lose it. I don't like it, but I understand it.

    • See 1 previous
    • Geozinger Geozinger on Jun 29, 2011

      @Holden: Not to go totally OT, but I thought the VW Force ad was completely predictable treacle. It has it's charms, but didn't really resonate with me. OTOH, the Kia one was completely over the top and I thought it was epic. I still think of the cheering crowd at the Mayan(?) temple whenever I see one on the road. But nothing stuck in my mind like the 200 commercial.

  • Detlump Detlump on Jun 28, 2011

    Looking at the USPTO TESS search, there are 3 applications filed by Chrysler for "imported from detroit", the earliest filed Nov 23, 2010. The other 2 were filed afterwards in Jan and Feb 2011. It was published for opposition in March 2011. Someone has filed an extension of time to oppose the registration. If this is the Pure Detroit people, likely the federal case will be stayed until the TTAB rules on the opposition. Chrysler is in a tough spot - if they do nothing, there will be tons of knockoffs and they will lose any chance to control the mark. I believe they tried to reach a settlement with PD, but that didn't work out.

  • GoFaster58 GoFaster58 on Jun 28, 2011

    Chrysler lost to GM in one of its most important trademarks it should have won. That being the trademark of the Jeep grille that they lost to the Hummer. After owning Jeep for so long one would have thought they already had the Jeep trademarked. Chrysler is always running behind.