Mess with a bike gang, and land yourself a legal battle.
It’s as if the notorious Hells Angels have traded in their leather jackets for blazers and ties after racking up over a dozen cases in federal court to protect their brand. The more popular they became since the group’s inception 65 years ago, the more noteworthy their symbols became.
Now, the Hells Angels have shifted gears from physical confrontations to those fought in a courtroom. Their actions have underscored how relevant—and lucrative—a successful and well-protected brand can go for any organization.
“We stabbed and stabbed people left and right in the day, but that way is less common now,” Richard Mora, known as Chico, a Hells Angels member in the Phoenix chapter, told The New York Times.
Most of their lawsuits were settled on favorable terms, The New York Times reported, pursuing Hells Angels’ ultimate goal to get other groups to stop using the trademarks or destroying and recalling merchandise and, in a few instances, pay some damages.
Back in October, the Angels sued rapper Young Jeezy’s clothing line, 8732 Apparel, arguing his company lifted their trademark logo for their own threads. They also moved to sue famous skater and clothing designer Rob Dyrdek last year for virtually the same thing.
The club also sued companies like Marvel Comics, which named one of its characters Hell’s Angel, as well as Company 81, a clothing brand, for using the official Hells Angels number (8 standing for “H” and 1 for “A”).
“The intent is not just to punish the infringers but to educate the public that the Hells Angels marques are well guarded and not generic and that they must not be infringed upon,” Fritz Clapp, the club’s lawyer, recently told The New York Times.
And according to a GQ report, the Angels have conducted their legal battles in a civil, non-violent way.
Hells Angels head Sonny Barger said, “We don’t let anybody use it but us,” Hells Angels head Sonny Barger told GQ. “And should someone try? “I wouldn’t ask them, I’d take it.”
Hells Angels code has kept the death’s-head patch logo exclusive to only its full-time members. They even went as far as trademarking the look and have fought hard to protect it.
But they did not stop there.
Hells Angels pushed their product onto the public in years past, introducing new lines of merchandise anyone can purchase on club websites or at official events. They have already rolled out retail items sporting their trademark-registered logos on things like beanies, cigars, window decals and T-shirts, to name a few.