It’s a strange day when the Hells Angels motorcycle club goes to court by choice; but, that’s exactly what it did recently. Rather than using bats, knives, and chains to protect its logo, the Angels filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court. According to TMZ, the club filed suit against 8732 Apparel and Dillard’s, Inc. for infringing on its “Death Head” logo.
8732 Apparel, owned by rapper Young Jeezy, sells a wide range of attire including hats, jackets, shirts, and more. The Angles say 8732 uses a copy of club’s logo on jackets and hats it sells and is making substantial profits by doing so. Notably the “Bandits Vest”, shown in the image above and one of the allegedly infringing items, is currently unavailable on 8732’s website.
The club asserts that it has consistently used the Death Head logo and words “Hells Angels” in a distinctive design to make up its patch. According to the complaint, the patch indicates active membership in the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corp., a “nonprofit mutual benefit corporation.” In fact, the club’s attorney said “[g]uys live and die for that patch. It’s not just a piece of clothing.” Additionally, the club says it owns four U.S. trademarks for its symbols: two for the patch design and two for the Death Head logo itself.
Although the club concedes that the 8732 logo is not identical, it argues it is close enough to confuse people. As a result, the club is asking for all of the profits earned from sales of infringing items and an injunction to prevent further sales of merchandise featuring the logo.
Even though the designs are similar, it is unclear whether the claims will be successful. The club only based its claims on market confusion. This means it must prove that people seeking to buy real Hells Angels clothing accidentally purchased the 8732 clothing instead.
It seems a dilution claim may also be appropriate. Under a dilution theory, the club would only need to prove it owns a trademark and was harmed by another’s use of the mark. It’s not always easy to prove ownership of a mark, but, given the clubs infamous status, a court could easily agree that the Death Head was a trademarked symbol.