Hells Angels: Trademark Bullies
from the of-course-they-are dept
Just in the past seven years, the Hells Angels have brought more than a dozen cases in federal court, alleging infringement on apparel, jewelry, posters and yo-yos. The group has also challenged Internet domain names and a Hollywood movie — all for borrowing the motorcycle club’s name and insignias. The defendants have been large, well-known corporations like Toys “R” Us, Alexander McQueen, Amazon, Saks, Zappos, Walt Disney and Marvel Comics. And they have included a rapper’s clothing company, Dillard’s and a teenage girl who was selling embroidered patches on eBay with a design resembling the group’s “Death Head” logo.While it appears that some of this is about money, it's much more clear that they're just fiercely protective of who's "in" the club. A deposition in one case of Sonny Barger, the head of the Hells Angels, has him discussing how if he sees anyone wearing unofficial Hells Angel clothing, he'll demand it on the spot -- sometimes offering to exchange it for a legitimate one, but also saying that if the person refuses "I'd beat him up and take it."
Of course, the article also details how law enforcement has often considered the Hells Angels an organized crime group, and I could see how that might lead to some problems down the road. A few years ago, we wrote about how, in a case against a different biker group, the Mongols, the US government asked the court to hand over the gang's trademarks, so that they could stop anyone and take away their clothes if they saw them wearing Mongols jackets or shirts. Basically, the government equivalent of what Barger said in his deposition. Imagine what kind of hell would break loose if the government tried to seize the Hells Angels trademarks as well...