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As painful as it may seem, you need to retain an attorney to settle the issue brought by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company regarding the use of their trademarked name.

Nearly all attorneys will advise to settle out of court. Otherwise, no one is going to win without putting up $100,000 or more as a retainer for a federal court appearance.

I am an administrator on other forums and know first hand that most forums which choose to fashion their forum name after a federal trademark can usually get away with it by making a small modification to their final domain. The key word can be either "talk" or "fan" or "owners".

In this case, you have a right to own and maintain the domain name (unless the governing internet body deems to take it away from you for future trademark violations) as HarleyDavidsonForum.com .

In the past when a settlement is agreed upon, anyone clicking on HarleyDavidsonForum.com will be directed to a page which can give the person a choice:

Click Here to go to HarleyDavidsonTalk.com (Forum Discussions from owners worldwide)

Click Here to go to HarleyDavidson.com

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My suggestion is to start thinking of a modified name for the forums. Post a POLL for your members to help.

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History:

My background for these issues is largely in the entertainment forums and how the studios have won. Warner Brothers Studios won a similar agreement when they established that even though anyone can have the right to own a domain with their trademark, such as warnerbrothersforum.com , they do not have the right to use it in such a manner that it "may" represent endorsement by the studio. In the end, they established their own forums and moderators.

Another approach is to agree to move the forum link to their home website and work with them, rather then against them. Most companies do not have the expertise in administrating a forum. You do. Sell that experience for a tradeoff that will satisfy your needs, the members needs, the needs of the company. A joint offer would settle it, and give your forum more power (as I believe).

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Don't take my word for anything here. Consult the professionals. If you do not have deep pockets and are a small business, then the smart approach is to subscribe to one of several prepaid legal plans for about $30 a month. You have a toll free attorney number, and unlimited telephone advice from the professionals who can advise you.

My fondest regards,

Jeremy Lancaster
 

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Trademark issues

I must admit . I thought this was a forum by HD corp . The Name and colors are almost identical to the entry page for Harley Davidson.com .
If someone used my business logos and colors in such a fashion I suppose I would not want it either .

Best to change names and the general look of this site IMHO .

Nice site though , I like it .
 

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Jeremy,

Thank you for you post. I have already made some arrangements for other domain names which are "already in place".

I do believe that the motor company has plans to make such a move as Warner Brothers did using my format and idea since it has become popular with the consumers. But, it's just me, I am that bull headed that I just am not going to let them come in and tell me to transfer the domain name to them, so I will let them spend their money with ICANN to dispute it and go from there.

Thanks for your feedback. Now, its time to sit back and wait for their next move.
 

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David,

The good news is what happened to Warner Brothers forum, which I suspect will happen if Harley Davidson chooses to go that way:

Warner Brothers forum membership in the first year (back in 1997-98) shot up to an amazing 35,000 members! But nearly all of their members never returned to the site and participate. Why?

Think of your own forum here: As an Admin myself, I know first hand the great challenges of managing a much smaller forum membership base (4800 currently) and how difficult it is to find volunteer moderators who have no ego to abuse their powers on the members. ;)

Warner's mistake was simple. They opened up their forums to their customer base and were flooded with member questions, comments, etc. But they did not prepare for the massive onslaught. Can you imagine opening up a Super Wal-Mart and having 10,000 customers the first day with only one cashier???

So, we have a multi-phase program to train moderators, starting with giving the applicant access to a Forum Guide Training forum. They spend weeks (and sometimes months) in that forum learning from moderators and admins on the art of managing the forums and members. They are given no tools or upgrades until they prove themselves of consistent participation. We essentially give them a 7-day access pass to weed out the fly-by-nighters.

Once they begin to bond with the members (answering comments, questions, and providing links to other topics, etc), then we announce they have been promoted to Forum Guide. This title is just a controlled modification to their User Title with an html "br" (break). Again, they have no tools... just the title. And again, the 7 day pass stays in effect.

Some trainees move along quicker than others, which means we then promote the Forum Guide to Moderator... which gives them access to the Moderators Training Forum. We change their User Group from Register to Super Moderator (because that will give them the tools to help in all forums, not just the one they are officially assigned to).

Once they have the Moderator title (again a controlled override in their User Title to mask their Super Moderator status), they still have much to learn using the Admin Tools of a moderator.

In the Moderators Forum, they author a training topic, such as "John's Training Journal". If they see a troubled topic, reply, or something that needs an edit, move, merge . . . they post their comments and ask approval to do the task. The Sr. Moderators train the Moderators, and over time the Moderators are promoted to Sr. Moderator (which requires no preapproval on any task... except deletions (which are only approved by Administrators.

It takes a long time to recruit and train a good moderator, let alone a good administrator. But without it, the boards can run rampant with abusive lurkers.

So my point is this:

Harley Davidson, as well as Warner Brothers, may be able to sign up tens of thousands of forum members... but they do not have the experience you have in bonding with your members to make them feel like a family community. That takes years of experience, which I feel you have.

What is your job worth to HD? I know I was offered the job as a forum Admin by another major studio for $100,000 a year. I declined the offer because there is just so much "me" and the job is VERY fulltime, as you can imagine it can be when building a lloyal customer and forum member base that will make the compay a million dollars.

But I also sense you do this because you enjoy it, not because it is a job. So you're probably far better off on your present course (although I still believe it would be wonderful for you to have a solid relationship with Jim McCaslin, the president, so that he can personally see what benefit you are providing for your members and his customers.

If not, then take the history of what has been learned from the Warner Brothers forums: They may have 100,000 forums members who registered once and left, but guess where they went to? They found other home entertainment forums who were managed by more caring administrators (such as http://www.dvdcouponpost.com/vbulletin/ ) which is owned and administered by Mark Libbert, an attorney who finds joy in helping folks have a movie forum that means something). Mark does make some ad banner commission and does very well to continue being free from alligning himself with the big corporate studios).

So I think the future is bright, and even though you admitted to having an edge to your personality... you'll do fine. Remember though, most people govern their actions by their emotions. Proven leaders learn to govern their actions by the results they want. And that course is never easy. ;)

All my best,

Jeremy

PS: I signed up for your forum a few months ago because I do a lot of reading at the VBulletin Support forum, where I found your post. That is an excellent forum for owners and techs. :)

 

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Jeremy, very impressive and helpful advice. We who lurk and sometimes post appreciate a site like this as a place to vent a little steam and learn a lot from other people's experience. DPrice is a talented Admin who will attract a loyal following to his eventual site, be it this one or some other even grander vision. Best of luck to you both. jefro, CNC machinist.
 

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Jeremy, the ":)" is simply a smiley face....VBULLETIN doesn't recognize it with a smiley face for some reason. You can always go into the CPANEL and change your title if you wish.

Thanks again for the helpful advice....I am taking copious notes!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
dprice said:
Jeremy, the ":)" is simply a smiley face....VBULLETIN doesn't recognize it with a smiley face for some reason. You can always go into the CPANEL and change your title if you wish.
You would think as an Admin using VB every day at the other forums I could find what you're referring to . . . but no luck. :(

Every tab in my personal User Control Panel does not show an editable field to change my User Name. (Unless my left eye is going blind) ;)

Could you take a look at it in the VB Control Panel? Your Admin tools should be able to edit the user name.

By the way, when I signed up I wanted to choose my User Name as Jeremy Lancaster with a space between my first and last name. But I think your Control Panel option is set to limit user names to 15 letters and not 16 to accommodate my full name. :)

If you do increase the Control Panel Option to allow 16 characters, please change me to my full name with a space.

Anyway, whatever you can do to make me look good. :D

All the best,

Jeremy
 
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