It seems our federal government may have found a legal loophole, through which they might be able to claim the rights of some of the Motorcycle Clubs trademarked logos.
Southern California’s largest club, Mongols Nation, known for their unmistakable black-and-white image of 12th Century Mongol leader Genghis Khan, wearing sunglasses and bell bottom jeans, riding a chopper while carrying a scimitar sword, may very well be the first on the “chopping block”. For the over 600 fully patched members, this logo is part of their identity as well as their motto; Mongols Forever, Forever Mongols.
The Mongols Nation MC is now facing what may be a very lengthy court battle as U.S. prosecutors start what they hope will be the “beginning of the end” for America’s most violent motorcycle clubs. The DOJ has always considered these 1% MCs to be criminal enterprises, and are now asking a federal judge to make it illegal for the Mongols members to wear the patch, or even display the name, essentially making it legal for law enforcement to literally take a Mongols jacket right of their back.
“It not just stripping them of their identity, or robbing them of a recruiting tool, it’s taking the star off their helmet,” said a law enforcement source in Los Angeles. “The logo itself furthers a criminal enterprise.”
Donald Charles Davis, author of “Aging Rebel: Dispatches From The Motorcycle Outlaw Frontier” states that; “Men have literally died for those patches. They have great symbolic value to motorcycle club members in the same way that the American flag has great symbolic value to patriots.”
It seems that when the Mongols Nation registered their trademark in 2005, unknown to the club at the time, there were four ATF undercover agents posing as members. In 2008, the ATF was able to issue 110 arrest warrants in four states, accusing club members of murder, drug trafficking, robbery, extortion and money laundering. As part of a plea bargain accepted by the club president, they forfeited the rights to the Mongols Nation trademark to the Department of Justice.
At the time, a Federal Judge Florence-Marie Cooper granted an injunction prohibiting the members from “flying their colors” or wearing as well as licensing, selling or distributing any materials that depicted the Mongolian warrior. Only Uncle Sam could legally wear the “cut” or sleeveless jacket. Upon presentation of the court’s order by police; “defendants and all their agents, servants, employees, family members, and other persons in active participation with them, must surrender all products, clothing, vehicles, motorcycles, books, posters, merchandise, stationery, or other materials bearing the Mongols trademark.” A few years later another judge partially lifted the injunction.
Mongols upper management are now mounting a First Amendment defense against the government, arguing that the; “government’s sole purpose in filing the indictment is to crush the Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club by seizing the intellectual rights to the ‘Rider’ and ‘Mongol’ marks and thereby quash the Club and its members rights to freedom of expression and association.”
Davis states that “all other clubs” are viewing this as, “just a first step to what the government wants to do to all motorcycle clubs. They wanna outlaw motorcycle clubs by taking their insignia away from them.” He further adds that the actions of the DOJ are “unprecedented and unconstitutional.” Stating that the Mongol’s logo is a “collective membership mark” that’s “on a par with the Christian cross, the Masonic compass, or the Jewish star.”
Of course government lawyers are disagreeing, claiming that 1% motorcycle clubs “constitute an ongoing criminal enterprises” and should be subject to the same statutes that prosecutors use to dismantle organized crime families such as the “Mafia”. The RICO act (Racketerring Influenced and Corrupt Organization) allows the feds to seize cars, boats and any other assets used to further illegal activities. In the case of the “1% Outlaw MCs such as Mongols Nation, it includes their logo, and if the feds prevail in this case, many other MC names and logos will become the property of the U.S. Government as well.
My opinion is this: once you allow this type of unprecedented federal infringement of Trademark and Patent laws, who would be next? Pepsico? Coca-Cola? Who decides at what point the RICO act can be used? I understand that many 1% type MCs have “made their own beds” in some cases, by directly participating in or by supporting members who do participate in illegal activities, but the precedent this particular court case could set, may create emanating ripples throughout all of corporate America.
Imagine for just one minute; one accountant for a major corporation is found guilty of misappropriation of corporate funds, the corporation is brought up on RICO charges and their long-standing corporate logo evaporates as the fed takes possession. If you want to bring criminals to justice, prosecute them the appropriate way and put them in jail. Stealing their legally Trademarked logo, is in my opinion, is exactly that… STEALING.