June 6, 2018 3:31 pm

Chris Farley’s family suing bike-maker Trek over ‘Farley’ fat-tired bikes

SNL' star Chris Farley.

Getty Images

The family of late comedian and film star Chris Farley has filed a  U.S. federal lawsuit against Trek Bicycle for naming its fat-tired bikes Farley, alleging that the brand’s bike is damaging to his legacy.

The family of Farley said the Wisconsin-based bike company misappropriated Farley’s name and traded on his “fat guy” brand of comedy.

The Trek Farley is one of the company’s fat-tired builds. The Farley 5 bicycle is described as, “our best value fat bike and the perfect gateway to all-season freedom. It rolls over snow, sand, roots, and rocks with the stability and traction of a monster truck on beefy 27.5×4.5˝ tires. A 1x Shimano drivetrain, lightweight aluminum frame, and carbon fork make it a great choice for anyone who wants to ride a mountain bike year-round, no matter the weather.”

Screengrab / Farley bikes /www.trekbikes.com/ca

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The Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday that the lawsuit originated in California last year but a judge on Friday ordered that it be heard instead in federal court in Madison because that is closer to all of the parties involved.

Chris Farley was born and raised in Madison, about 50 kilometres from Waterloo, where Trek is based.

Make Him Smile, a company founded and run by Farley’s family to protect his publicity and property rights, said damages could exceed US$10 million. Trek said any damages sought were purely speculative.

In response, Trek also said that much of the case rests on whether Farley was a resident of California at the time of his death, making his name and image subject to a California law that governs deceased celebrities’ right of publicity.

Trek’s lawyers argue that Farley was a resident of Illinois when he died in 1997 in Chicago from a drug overdose.

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Farley graduated from high school in Madison and Marquette University in Milwaukee before going on to star on Saturday Night Live and in several hit movies, including Tommy Boy and Black Sheep.

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He weighed about 400 pounds, the lawsuit states, having “spent his entire career building, then capitalizing on, his unique brand of ‘fat guy’ humour and acting style.”

The lawsuit alleges that Farley “carefully guarded and policed his brand,” rejecting overtures from companies he felt did not warrant it, and even feared that losing weight would jeopardize his brand as a comedian.

The lawsuit alleges Trek chose the name Farley “to immediately associate defendant Trek’s fat bikes with one of their favourite ‘fat’ and ‘loud’ comedians,” and the company’s executives knew what they were doing when they made the decision.

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The late comedian’s family argues that Trek did not pay to use the name Farley and never consulted with the family.

In January, a judge denied Trek’s motion to dismiss the case, in part because Trek hadn’t proven with indisputable evidence that Farley was an Illinois resident at the time of his death.

— With files from the Associated Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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