Chrysler Sues Retailer Over Trademarked Slogan

Chrysler’s Super Bowl tagline is spawning a cottage industry, and the car company—which is already selling its own “Imported from Detroit” clothing line—is none too happy about it.  

In a new lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court against the founders of Pure Detroit, a three-store retailer that sells locally inspired merchandise—Chrysler accused the vendor of violating the automaker’s trademarked tagline by selling products featuring it. Chrysler claims that by their own admission, Pure Detroit’s Kevin Borsay and Shawn Santo have said shirts using the line have been their best selling product ever. “Imported from Detroit” is a tagline created by Wieden + Kennedy for the Eminem commercial that promotes the 2011 Chrysler 200.

Borsay and Santo could not be reached for comment. A store representative said Pure Detroit expects to make a statement later today.

In a blog post, Chrysler said it was “left with no choice but to file a lawsuit” against Moda Group LLC, which operates Pure Detroit. The automaker said: “No one likes a legal solution to an issue. It could look like David vs. 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.”

Chrysler said that on Jan. 18—before the Super Bowl ad aired—it had already applied to register “Imported from Detroit” as a trademark for various applications, including branded clothing.

The company said on Feb. 14 it first learned that Pure Detroit was selling shirts with the tag and the Detroit retailer said it was “exclusive” in doing so. From that point until early March, Chrysler said it asked Pure Detroit to stop selling the merchandise. The auto company said it offered “solutions to Pure Detroit, such as asking them to donate a portion of its proceeds to charity.” (Chrysler donates a portion of its “Imported from Detroit” clothing sales to charities like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Habitat for Humanity Detroit, Think Detroit PAL and The Marshall Mathers Foundation, Eminem’s charity benefiting disadvantaged youth in Michigan.)

According to Chrysler, Pure Detroit said in a Feb. 24 e-mail that it was “willing to agree to cease all sales.” But while the merchandise was removed from, it was, as of March 1, still being sold at retail locations, per Chrysler.

The automaker is already selling merchandise with the tagline on its Web site. Chrysler reps said that sales of the T-shirts have been strong, and the automaker’s site quickly sold out after initially offering the clothing, which is available again.