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Duluth Trading Co. apologizes to Don Henley to resolve trademark dispute

Don Henley of the Eagles performs in Charlotte, N.C., in January 2009. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

Duluth Trading Co., the outdoor apparel retailer whose marketers rarely have met a pun they didn’t like, apologized Wednesday to singer Don Henley for making one out of his name and a song.

Henley, lead singer of the Eagles, sued Duluth Trading in October just a few days after the company started advertising its henley T-shirts with the slogan “Don a Henley and Take It Easy.” The reference apparently was to the Eagles’ first hit song, “Take It Easy,” released in 1972 and written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne.

Like many well-known artists and celebrities, Henley has trademarked his name, giving him rights to control how it is used. He and other members of the band have long refused to license their names and music for use in advertising, video games and other commercial purposes. And Henley and his lawyers have developed a reputation for aggressively pursuing companies that do.

Wisconsin-based Duluth Trading, which was founded in Duluth and opened a store in downtown Duluth last year, is known for clever, irreverent merchandising and marketing materials both in stores and online. Khaki pants, for instance, are referred to as “Middle Management chinos” and long-tail T-shirts “prevent plumber’s butt.” In the months since the ad mentioning Henley appeared, attorneys for Duluth Trading and the musician worked on settlement terms that were presented Tuesday to a judge in the California court where the suit was filed. The details of those terms emerged in the apology that Duluth Trading posted on its website.

In the apology, placed in the “about us” section of its website, Duluth Trading said, “We have, at Mr. Henley’s request, also made a monetary payment to be directed to the Walden Woods Project, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of its founding, to resolve this matter.”

The size of the payment wasn’t disclosed. A representative of the company couldn’t be reached for comment.

In the apology, the company also said: “We appreciate and respect what Mr. Henley has meant to music and we now see that our use of his name and an Eagles’ song title in our advertisement was inappropriate. For that we are deeply regretful and we apologize, not just to Mr. Henley, but to anyone else who took offense. We have learned a valuable lesson and thank Mr. Henley for helping us appreciate the importance that he and other artists place in their publicity rights.”

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