The U.S. Attorney's Office knows the value of a logo ~ Brand Mix

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The U.S. Attorney's Office knows the value of a logo

After a three-year undercover operation, law enforcement officers arrested more than 60 members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club yesterday. Although the club claims to be social in nature, prosecutors say it is, in fact, a criminal gang involved in murder, torture and drug trafficking.

The U.S. Attorney's office wants to do more than put club members in jail. It's trying to put the club out of business entirely by stripping the gang of its name and right to wear its signature patch. The Mongols trademarked their name so now United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien alleges that it's subject to forfeiture based on crimininal activity.

"If the court grants our request for this order, then if any law enforcement officer sees a Mongol wearing his patch, he will be authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back,” he says in a press release.

There is no doubt that the patch has huge significance for club members. According to this NPR report, the Mongols and the Hells Angels were at war for 17 years over the right to wear the patch.

Whether the attack on the trademark will or should work is a different question. Some experts in intellectual property law think that it's an over-reach. "It's cute and clever, but it's also a bit troubling," says Yoav M. Griver, a lawyer with Zeichner Ellman & Krause in New York talking to

"What if the government had decided that, because of the Watergate scandal, nobody could use the word Republican again?" Or a logo from any company that gets caught in criminal wrongdoing for that matter.


Jeffry Pilcher said...

The lawyer's analogy to the Republican Party's involvement in Watergate is a fallacious one. Simply because one Republican broke the law one time does
not infer that all Republicans are all criminals all the time. The "Mongols" symbol is exclusively associated with gangs, and is intended to reflect
criminal activity. Simply put: Not every Republican is a criminal, but every Mongol is.

I don't see this as "a slippery slope" as the lawyer suggests. He makes it sound like the courts are so ridiculously overzealous that they might outlaw Nike logos if people commit crimes wearing them. Personally, I have more faith in our legal system than that. We aren't that stupid. We're talking
about symbols that are EXCLUSIVELY associated with gangs, like MS13,
Mongols, Crips, Bloods, etc. We aren't talking about brands that are occasionally (or even frequently) associated with gangs, like Kristal, Mercedes and Rolex

(posted, with permission, by Martin Bishop, due to some Blogger technical difficulties)

Martin Bishop said...


I agree with your comment about the lawyer's analogy--I imagine he was just trying to be provocative.

However, this kind of legal action might be applied to companies that are found guilty of deliberate criminal misconduct. Then again, such companies may be put out of business within existing regulations.

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