The HAMC is very protective of its image and brand, particularly the club logo. In October 2013, the club filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California against 8732 Apparel, which is a clothing line owned by rapper Young Jeezy and retailer Dillard’s. The lawsuit alleged that elements of the clothing line infringed the intellectual property rights of the club patch, which is a skull with wings (known as the "Death Head"), and otherwise featuring the name of the club on top and the chapter details underneath.
Young Jeezy’s 8732 apparel, on the other hand, featured a mask with wings that bears a similar shape to the Death Head, and the words “Street Bandit” and “Eight Seven” in places where the HAMC name and chapter would have been. (photo comparison)
The Death Head logo, the HAMC name and the chapter all make up the standard Hells Angels patch, which serve as a sign of full club membership. The club owns two registered US trade marks for the patch design and two for the Death Head symbol.
The Hells Angels’ lawsuit cites willful infringement, and demands triple damages and attorney’s fees. Unsurprisingly – given the club’s reputation – the lawsuit was settled in the motorcycle club’s favor for an undisclosed amount. The clothing line has since been removed from the shelves of Dillard's.
In Queensland, Australia, laws around the wearing of motorcycle patches have apparently triggered the filing of many trade mark registrations. In October 2013 the Queensland Government introduced legislation which, amongst other things, prohibited the wearing of patches and the service of alcohol to people wearing prohibited motorcycle patches. These laws are, collectively, the Vicious Lawless Associations Disestablishment Act, the Tattoo Parlours Act and the Criminal Gang Destruction Act, together with amendments to the Liquor Act 1992.
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The assumption is that the clubs have received advice similar to that followed by the tobacco industry in resisting efforts to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes: that the Queensland legislation unfairly strips the clubs of their valuable intellectual property rights. Alternatively, the clubs might be seeking to argue that federal trade mark legislation constitutionally over-rides state legislation banning the use of the specific motor cycle patches. It will be interesting to see how this strategy unfolds as the year progresses.