Harley-Davidson once tried to trademark their motorcycle engine sound!
Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 in Milwaukie, Wisconsin and managed to survive the Great Depression when most other companies floundered. They manufacture heavy weight motorcycles meant for highway cruising. Heavy weight motorcycles refer to their engine size being above 750 cc.
They are known for their distinctive design and exhaust note. They are well known for their customization of their bikes, as well. In 1991, Harley-Davidson began participating in the Sound Quality Working Group. The group was founded by Orfield Labs, Bruel and Kjaer, TEAC, Yamaha, Sennheiser, SMS and Cortex.
It was the nation’s first group to share research on psychological acoustics. Later in the year, Harley-Davidson participated in some sound quality studies for Orfield Labs. Their objective was the lower the sound level for EU standards while analytically capturing the “Harley sound.”
Then on February 1, 1994, the company filed a sound trademark application for the distinct sound a Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine makes. Nine of Harley-Davidson competitors filed comments opposing the application.
Their argument was that some of their engines used similar engines that sounded like the Harley. Litigation began and by 2000, Harley-Davidson cancelled their application and effort to federally trademark their engine sound.