Legendary Car Designer’s Estate Sues over Unauthorized Use of “Yenko” Name

The heirs of a legendary muscle car creator flexed some of those muscles in court. Yesterday, the daughter of Don Yenko, who created some of the most iconic Chevrolet Camero designs, commenced a lawsuit against two California companies for selling merchandise under the “Yenko” name without permission.
CameroBetween 1966 and 1981, over 800 high-performance vehicles were manufactured and sold under the YENKO trademark.  The YENKO trademark was registered but has since become expired after the passing of Don Yenko in 1987. Despite the trademark being expired, plaintiff claims that the Yenko name is still well known among automobile enthusiasts.  Plaintiff claims that General Marketing Capital, Inc. and Classic Industries Corporation are distributing automobile merchandise branded under the YENKO name without authorization from the estate.
Yenko’s heir has asserted claims for federal unfair competition and violation of Yenko’s publicity rights.  Plaintiff seeks unspecified damages.  It is important to note here that since the trademark is expired, plaintiff is not permitted to sue for counterfeiting under the Lanham Act which permits statutory damages of up to $2 million for each trademark counterfeited.  This serves as a good example of why trademarks should be registered and kept active.