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Chrysler sues Pure Detroit over slogan

by Bill Cawthon on

Chrysler Group LLC has filed a lawsuit against Pure Detroit, a Motor City-themed apparel and gift retailer over misuse of the “Imported from Detroit” slogan. The suit claims that, “Shortly after Chrysler Brand’s popular, inspirational two-minute Super Bowl ad that spawned the “imported from Detroit” tag, Twitter hashtag and other memes, Pure Detroit started to sell t-shirts with the Imported from Detroit line. On Jan. 18 – before the Super Bowl ad aired – Chrysler had already applied to register Imported from Detroit as a trademark for various uses, including branded clothing.

“Pure Detroit copied Chrysler’s original and powerful IMPORTED FROM DETROIT tagline and profited from doing so. As a portion of the proceeds from Chrysler’s own merchandise sales are contributed to charity, Pure Detroit not only deprived Chrysler of sales, but also deprived numerous charities of the opportunity to benefit from the interest and excitement in the IMPORTED FROM DETROIT tagline. Chrysler has attempted in good faith to encourage Pure Detroit to stop infringing Chrysler’s rights and to contribute a portion of its gains to charity, but it has refused to do so. This action seeks to stop Pure Detroit from exploiting the IMPORTED FROM DETROIT tagline and account for the profits it has made.”

On the company’s official blog, Mike Driehorst, Chrysler’s editorial director for online media, wrote, “There’s a common mentality that, if it’s online, it’s free. You can easily grab copyrighted and commercial images and logos from company websites, and places like Flickr. You can record TV programs, ads, and other broadcast video, and upload them to your own account on YouTube.

“And yes, some of that sharing is good and can benefit businesses from exposure.

“But, if you’re told to stop – particularly for good reasons – then stop.

“Unfortunately, a similar situation happened during the course of recent weeks, and Chrysler Group was left with no choice but to file a lawsuit last night against Moda Group LLC. Moda Group operates Pure Detroit which says it offers ‘Authentic Detroit apparel + unique gifts that represent the 313.’

“No one likes a legal solution to an issue. It could look like David v Goliath in the Chrysler lawsuit against Pure Detroit. However, do know that we made repeated attempts to work out a non-legal solution with Pure Detroit.

“From February 14 – when Chrysler first learned of Pure Detroit’s selling of shirts with the IfD tag and claiming it was “exclusive” – until early March, Chrysler Group continued to ask Pure Detroit to stop selling its IfD merchandise. And, we even offered solutions to Pure Detroit, such as asking them to donate a portion of its proceeds to charity.

“We did all the above and more to prevent the situation from going to court.”

According to the suit, Pure Detroit said in a Feb. 24 email to Chrysler that it “is willing to agree to cease all sales.” The merchandise was removed from But as of at least March 1, its IfD gear was still being sold at its retail locations.

While we are all for entrepreneurs and free enterprise, there are legal considerations we must consider to protect that hard work that went into the Born of Fire commercial. We also want to protect the four charities* who benefit from the sale of our Imported from Detroit merchandise.

No one wants to get into a court battle. However, when all other reasonable, good faith efforts fail, there are few options.”

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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