Why Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French Almost Sued Harley-Davidson

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In the ’80s, few names in rock were bigger than Twisted Sister, thanks in large part to the commercial success of songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock,” in addition to the unmistakable face of Dee Snider and the band’s iconic images. The name is also quite catchy and at one point Harley-Davidson wanted to use it for the name of a tire, which almost caused guitarist Jay Jay French to file a lawsuit against the motorcycle company.

A group is a business, which French understands quite well and he even recently released Twisted Business: Lessons from My Life in Rock ‘n’ Roll, his new book which is a combination of memoir and business advice. And when it comes to trademarks, French explained in an interview with WBAB’s Joe Rock that the Twisted Sister trademark is one he’s had to defend fiercely over the years, often through the legal system.

“There were so many attempts to use the mark, and I had to sue everyone – I had to keep suing people because I have the mark. And one day I got a phone call from a guy representing Harley-Davidson. He said: ‘We want to name our tire ‘Twisted Sister’, and we’ve done our due diligence and found out you own the brand. And we’re calling to let you know that we’re going to use the name and we’re going to call the tire ‘Twisted Sister’,” French recalls (transcript via Blabbermouth).

Predictably, that didn’t sit well with the guitarist – he wasn’t going to take it.

French continued, “And I was like, ‘Are you really calling me and saying you’re infringing on my trademark? I was stunned. I said, “You’re really calling me, telling me you recognize that I own the brand, you tell me that you don’t care that I own the brand because you’re Harley-Davidson with $400 million in ‘active, and then you’re gonna call a tire ‘Twisted Sister’ and you’re gonna send me some tires as a thank you. That’s what you’re telling me, isn’t it?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah .'”

He then asked for the rep’s phone number and ended the call, which left him “fucking livid”.

“I called [him back] and that’s what I told him. I said, ‘Hey, man. Jay Jay French [here]. You know the phone number you called to reach me is a 212 number. He goes, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘You know what that means, don’t you? I’m a guy from New York. Actually, I’m a Jew from New York. That’s what I told him,” French continued before listing previous court proceedings where he had to defend the Twisted Sister brand against other companies.

The 69-year-old rocker, who also has his own podcast (The Jay Jay French Connection: Beyond the Music), clarified, “I said, ‘So that’s exactly how it’s going to be.’ I said, ‘Number one, I sued Six Flags and won.’ He went, ‘What?’ I said yes. And they’re twice as big as Harley-Davidson. And I sued them for three years and won. Did you do your due diligence on this?” And he said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ And I said, “Well, you should do your due diligence on this. Because I also took down Urban Decay.”

In an effort to demonstrate to the rep how screwed up the “Twisted Sister” tire proposal was, French offered a retaliatory situation and said, “‘If you fuck me like this, the first thing I’m going to do, c ‘I’m gonna sign a band and call them the Harley-Davidsons. I’ll send you some guitar picks and a goddamn thank you. And [the rep] said, ‘How much do you want?’ I said, ‘I want 10% and two Fat Boys [motorcycles] a year.’ …And I hung up on him. And he called me back the next day. He said: “We have canceled our use of the name.” And that was the end of that.”

Talk about twisted business, huh?

Watch the full interview below and learn more about French’s latest book here.

Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French — Interview with Joe Rock

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