Biker Gang’s Criminal Case Has Some Interesting Implications for Logo Trademarks
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Mongols Motorcycle Club. And if members of the Southern California outfit had been stumped on a way to celebrate the occasion, they received an option yesterday, as a federal judge denied an attempt to strip the controversial group of its logo and two additional trademarks. In doing so, David O. Carter referenced collective membership marks in deeming the prosecution’s case unconstitutional, a decision that has interesting implications for logo trademarks.
Judge refuses to strip Mongols biker club of trademarked logo https://t.co/6zJcVRmsT2
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) March 1, 2019
We all know that duplicating a logo can land someone in legal trouble, but what if the users of a logo have commonly found themselves on the wrong side of the side? Are transgressions that have led to incarceration grounds for ridding an organization of its artistic identifier?
According to Carter, they are not, as, with respect to the aforementioned marks, he asserted that the court must uphold the Mongols’ First Amendment rights, since the trademarks lack a commercial purpose and serve simply to help members identify themselves as group constituents. He also protected the riders’ Eight Amendment interests by contending that the forfeiture of the questioned trademarks and logo, which consists of an image of a Genghis Khan-like figure donning sunglasses, would constitute an “unjustified and grossly disproportionate” punishment.
For anyone with knowledge of the Mongols, it is obvious to say that many of its members since the group’s 1969 formation have not exactly been choirboys. Having a reputation for causing legal violations, however, should never be enough for federal figures to seek the acquisition of an organization’s insignia, according to Mongols’ attorney Joe Yanny, who dubbed the case “an attempt at collective guilt.” In defending his clients against the attack on their logo and trademarks, the lawyer—pressed into duty following the January racketeering conviction against the Mongol Nation that led to yesterday’s gathering—at least temporarily halted what is now a 10-year federal quest to rid the riders of their logo.
O.C. Federal Jury Orders Mongols Motorcycle Club to Forfeit Logo Trademarks Following Racketeering Conviction
POSTED 12:16 PM, JANUARY 11, 2019, BY ASSOCIATED PRESS, UPDATED AT 04:28PM, JANUARY 11, 2019 https://t.co/UD0ZQRx3FZ
— Ur Network 360 (@UrNetwork360) January 12, 2019
An appeal, according to the Associated Press, is possible because, well, aren’t appeals always on the losing side’s mind? All jabs aside, it could be tough for the prosecution to overturn the decision, particularly since Carter asserted that “though the symbol may at times function as a mouthpiece for unlawful or violent behavior, this is not sufficient to strip speech of its First Amendment protection.”
That mindset has a few important components to it. While it never figures to be possible to downplay the criminal instances associated with the Mongols, it also likely seems those matters will serve as nothing more than material for lawyers who are looking for criminal convictions. Since the Mongols earn nothing from their trademarks, they are not directly influencing the public to hold any allegiance to their group, so one wonders about what could happen to an organization or association if it became involved in a legal squabble through the use of a product or good that relies heavily on a logo for commercial appeal.
We are hard-pressed even to come up with an example of such a misstep that could inspire a legal team to seek the stripping of a symbol, meaning that any case that would involve the pursuit of that would likely be a very difficult one to win. What appears more likely is that a hypothetical company that experiences trouble because of its logo would do itself a favor and make a change of its own volition.
With respect to the Mongols, no matter how sizable they are, their logo, so Carter stated, is solely an indicator of their unity and not a bottom-line booster—because there is no bottom line to enhance. Good taste and morals were not adequate prosecutorial aids for the losing side. What are the odds that they can ever be if someone’s logo-centric integrity comes to the fore before a court of law?