DESCENDANTS OF CRAZY HORSE FILE SUIT IN FEDERAL COURT
Sioux Falls, SD - November 6, 2000 - The Estate of Tasunke Witko
(aka Crazy Horse) last week filed suit in federal court against
Brewing Company and Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons, the makers of "The
Crazy Horse Malt Liquor." The Estate's complaint alleges causes of
under federal, state and Lakota law, including disparagement and
of the spirit, false designation of origin and false endorsement,
dilution, violations of rights of publicity and privacy, and of the
Arts and Crafts Act.
Crazy Horse, the most revered of Lakota spiritual and political
leaders, was outspoken against the use of alcohol by his people.
to the complaint, the use of the Crazy Horse name "in association
promotion of a high-potency alcoholic beverage is exploitive and
to the person, name, spirit, memory and family of Crazy Horse, and to
property of his Estate." The complaint further states that the
the owner of the property rights to the name of Crazy Horse, seeks
for defendants wrongful appropriation of that name for their own
gain. Seth H. Big Crow, Sr., Administrator of the Estate
have stolen his name from us and slapped it on a bottle of beer...we
never allow his name to be used like this."
From the time they introduced "The Original Crazy Horse Malt
Liquor," the defendants, who also make the well-known Arizona Iced
were confronted with opposition to their use of the name of the
Lakota leader. In 1992, the US Surgeon General, House of
and the Senate expressed their outrage at the use of the name on a
Indeed, the House and the Senate passed a bill, signed by President
to ban this use of the name Crazy Horse. A federal court later found
law to be unconstitutional.
The defendants have also twice applied for trademark registration
for the name of the product. Each time, the United States Patent and
Trademark Office rejected the application. The Patent and Trademark
specifically stated that the mark was rejected "because [it] consists
comprises matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or
renowned Oglala Sioux chief, warrior, and spiritual leader, Crazy
The Estate originally brought an action against Hornell and
Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons in the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court. A
appellate court held that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction to
the dispute, suggesting that the federal courts would be the proper
In front of the federal courthouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Mr.
Big Crow stated, "This is a great day for the family of Crazy Horse.
filed this litigation in federal court and we will continue until we
name off of that malt liquor."
Attorneys with the firm of Morrison & Foerster are representing the
Estate of Tasunke Witko on a pro bono basis. Morrison & Foerster has
the largest intellectual property practices of any general practice
In addition, the firm has a long history of commitment to providing
legal services to indigent persons and in matters of public interest.