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Hells Angels Open Up Some Intellectual Property Whup Ass

Incorrect stereotypes may not suggest as much, but the Hells Angels are a very well-run business, complete with a keen attention to detail when it comes to registering, maintaining, and policing their intellectual property rights. Example and another.

Moviegoods, Inc. sells movie posters and other memorabilia. They have been selling unauthorized reproductions of a poster from the movie, Hells Angels Forever.

The problem is, not only is the poster copyrighted, but the biker club has federally registered its well-known trademarks.

For over half a century, members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club have continuously employed the word mark HELLS ANGELS and a design mark depicting the side view of a helmeted, horned and feathered human skull (“the death head mark”) as collective membership marks, trademarks and service marks. These marks are used on patches, jewelry, garments, signage, publications and other personal property for the exclusive purpose of identifying the club and its active members.

As a matter of branding, I would have to say that the Hells Angels have one of the best known trademarks in existence. (And The Legal Satyricon ought to know, right?)

Here’s the really interesting part of the complaint — the Hell’s Angels include a claim for Trademark Dilution. When Congress passed the Trademark Dilution Revision Act in 2006, it essentially took the dilution cause of action away from all but the most well-known marks. My students, cynics that they are, often are of the opinion that this is because Congress was conducting a big campaign donor give-away.

The claims seem pretty sound, but I will comment more once I see the answer and affirmative defenses. My entertainment law class is going to love this.

The case is Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation v. Moviegoods, Inc., 2:07-cv-02416-FCD-DAD (E.D.Calif. 2007).

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