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October 22, 2008

Banning Biker Brand Naming

mongols.jpgIt seems that even sadistic biker gangs can fall afoul of trademark violation these days, as the nefarious Mongols have discovered this week.

The FBI has decided to charge the Mongols with murder, attempted murder, assault, gun running and drug violations, and as part of their strategy to punish the gang for these infractions the FBI is attempting to seize their trademarked name.

The indictment calls for a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any officer "who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back."

Some trademark lawyers call this move "troubling" and an "over-reach" of forfeiture law since the Mongols actually made the effort to trademark the name in relation to "interests of persons interested in the recreation of riding motorcycles" before allowing for it to be registered by a company called Shotgun Productions. This may prove to be a stumbling block for the FBI, as Shotgun Productions seems to have nothing to do with anything illegal.

There are also issues of free speech to consider, such as what happens to the pamphlets and other written materials that bear the Mongols name?

wild_hogs.jpgOne blogger points out that rather than making the name illegal, the FBI can simply strike at the gang's legitimacy or else hammer the gang for using a trademark that is "primarily geographically misdescriptive" since none of the bikers actually come from central Asia, like real Mongols. However, the problem with this approach would be that the mark would remain in the public domain, while federal ownership of the mark would make it illegal for the gang to use it all.

Maybe the Mongols should hire the same lawyers that the Hell's Angels did when they sued Disney for "trademark dilution" for their representation in the comedy "Wild Hogs."

The Hell's Angels are actually the "Hell's Angels Motorcycle Corporation" and aggressively protect their mark not only against movie makers, but also against apparel companies.

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Posted by William Lozito at October 22, 2008 10:28 AM
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