Trek Bicycles has found itself on the defensive after having a lawsuit brought against it over the name of its Farley line of fat bikes.
The family of Chris Farley is suing the Waterloo, Wisc.-based bike manufacturer, saying the company misappropriated the late-comedian’s name, and the name’s connection to the actor and comedian’s “fat guy” band of comedy, according to Associated Press.
The federal lawsuit was filed in California in September by Make Him Smile, a company founded by Farley’s family in order to protect publicity and property rights. After Trek’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed were rejected by a judge, on Friday the company succeeded in having the case moved to Madison, Wisc, on the basis that it is closer to all of the parties involved in the hearings, according to a report from Madison State Journal.
Chris Farley was born and raised in Madison, Wisc., and the majority of the lawsuits witnesses still reside in, or near Madison. Trek Bicycles is based 50 kilometres away in Waterloo, Wisc.
Make Him Smile has said damages could exceed $10 million.
Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reports that much of Trek’s motion in response to the lawsuit revolves around whether Farley was a resident of California, making his name and image subject of California laws governing deceased celebrities’ right of publicity, or of Illinois, where the Comedian died in 1997. Illinois has similar laws to California, but did not enact them until 1999, after Farley’s death.
Make Him Smile’s lawsuit alleges that Farley “carefully guarded and policed his brand,” and had “spent his entire career building, then capitalizing on his unique brand of ‘fat guy’ humour and acting style.”
The lawsuit states that Trek intentionally chose the Farley name for its fat-tire bikes “to immediately associate defendant Trek’s fat bikes with one of their favorite ‘fat’ and ‘loud’ comedians.” The lawsuit continues, “Bicycle consumers and the industry as a whole immediately associated its Madison, Wisconsin-built fat, loud, sturdy, rugged and outlandish Midwestern fat bikes with Farley’s world-famous image as a fat, loud, sturdy, rugged Midwesterner who is arguably the most famous person to have been born in Madison, Wisconsin.”
Chris Farley starred on Saturday Night Live and in several hit movies, including Tommy Boy, Black Sheep and Beverly Hills Ninja.
Chris Farley’s unique brand of humour on display in Tommy Boy (1995)
And, also from Tommy Boy, further proof that riding a bike instead of driving is always the better option: