By on June 28, 2011

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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13 Comments on “Chrysler Loses Court Battle Over “Imported From Detroit”...”

  • avatar

    My nephews’ high school uses the ram’s head as a logo.

  • avatar

    My advice to Chrysler is to let this be. Don’t appeal or press. They’ll only come off as the big bad guy, and with no registered trademark on the slogan, they have no case.

    But beyond all that, if they’re the most prominent user of this slogan, they’ll still get free marketing (albeit not under their direct creative control) from all those Detroit businesses who peddle IFD merch.

    Moda Group doesn’t make cars, so Chrysler should be fine.

  • avatar

    Seeking a close emotional association with the city of Detroit may be the single dumbest marketing move I’ve ever heard of. What, exactly, would anyone want to import from Detroit – Corruption? Kleptocracy? Waste? Welfare-ism? Violence? Race-based politics? Urban gangrene?

    Anyway, who came up with that approach – this gang, maybe?

    A better slogan would be “Exported from Detroit” – jobs, population, criminals…

    • 0 avatar

      When you look at before after sales on the 200 specifically, the campaign has clearly been a success.

      People’s Exhibit A for the single dumbest marketing move of 2011 in the auto industry…

      I’m a ninja, I’m a hoodie ninja, I’m a ninja, I’m a hoodie ninja…

      That and hi, are you a zombie cubicle drone, do you have a life so devoid of interest that hot girls look at you like you’re a creep in a bar, do you wear a tie to your cubicle and goofy sweaters when trying to scoop up single chicks? Well if you’re a zombie – the Honda Civic is the car for you!

      • 0 avatar

        @Holden: yes, that Honda Civic advertising theme is just… odd. AFAIK, it doesn’t appeal to my 20 something children, and it just turns me off with the weird cartoon-like characters.

        After I’m done viewing the commercials, I don’t remember the car. I do remember the weird HR Pufnstuf characters, though.

        I think next week, I’ll go out and buy a new Honda Shrek… or was that a Honda Zombie?

        Screw it – new Cruze Eco here I come…

  • avatar

    Judge Tarnow refused to issue a preliminary injunction to stop Pure Detroit from selling apparel with the mark while the case proceeds, so this doesn’t necessarily kill Chrysler’s case.

    I’m not clear what Tarnow means by Chrysler not having a trademark on the phrase. He could be saying that just because they filed to register the mark with the USPTO doesn’t mean that they have exclusive rights to it. Or he could be saying something more expansive, that Chrysler has not yet even established a common law trademark on the phrase. IANAL, but as I understand it, registration with the USPTO only buttresses your right to a mark or phrase, the real rights are established by using it in trade. It’s not clear to me if Tarnow is saying they haven’t even established those basic rights.

    Since he didn’t dismiss the case entirely, my guess is that it’s the former, that the USPTO hasn’t yet registered the mark to Chrysler.

    At this point, I think that Chrysler will continue the case because it’s exposure. All the news and blog stories have the words “Chrysler” and “Imported From Detroit” in the headlines. As a matter of fact, I’d think that Chrysler is not disappointed in the ruling. They’ve already decided to pay lawyers and now they’re just reaping some publicity from that investment.

  • avatar

    IFD was a good attention getter, but I don’t see it having much staying power, I agree Chrysler should let it go. Although as Ronnie says, nothing like a law suit to generate some publicity.

  • avatar

    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”.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      As a marketing professional when I saw the ad I thought It was one of the best car ads I had seen since the Kia Soul spokesrodents. Actually, Chrysler/Dodge have some damn good ads going for the most part. As you noted (and I did earlier) the ads, and the sales data and survey data shows, really worked. Having Eminem in it, and everything he represents to Gen Y and X, along with his own personal struggle and rebirth, and being from Detroit – it was a freakin’ terrific ad.

      The ad that did a great viral job, and got the most attention was definitely the VW “Force” ad – and one could argue it helped moved iron for VW because the Jetta sure is selling well.

      It was much better than the simply bizarre Kia Optima ad. It was WAY better than the Silverado as Lassie ad. It was better than the Camaro ad (which as a marketing professional I found hysterical as I’ve sat in brain storming sessions that ramble like like that – but sadly the gag was lost on anyone who hasn’t been in marketing). BMW, Mercedes, Suzuki, and Audi all ran ads I can’t even remember, and Hyundai didn’t show a “made for the Superbowl” ad but ran existing creative.

      • 0 avatar

        @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.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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