Harley-Davidson has lost an early bid to dismiss a Complaint filed against it by a freelance artist who claims the motorcycle maker used his logos outside of the scope of a license.
Wayne Wm. Peterson, a freelance commercial artist, had produced numerous well-known logos for the Harley-Davidson companies between the mid-1970's and the mid-2000's.
The famous "LIVE TO RIDE, RIDE TO LIVE" eagle was one of Peterson's creations.
The decision explained that the Court could not rule that Peterson's delay, while admittedly long, constituted an unreasonably long delay barring all relief, on its face.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), whenever a Defendant moves to dismiss a Complaint for failure to even state a claim, all the facts specifically plead in the Complaint are assumed to be true, and all reasonable inferences in the Complaint are construed in the Plaintiff's favor.
Harley-Davidson had argued that, even viewed in this favorable light, the Plaintiff's long delay in bringing suit constituted a disabling estoppel by laches, and violated a statute of limitations that should be applied to his copyright claims for conduct occurring before 2009.
However, the District Court stated that any dismissal would not be warranted solely on the basis of the Complaint alone, in the absence of the parties conducting discovery, because laches is an affirmative defense that Harley-Davidson bears the burden of proving.
Harley-Davidson is now free to develop a full record through discovery to establish the proposition that the Plaintiff's long delay was indeed inexcusable and caused it prejudice.