trademarked logo

Have you ever considered the importance of a company’s logo? Have you thought about what it means in the minds of consumers? Or even the legality of creating these trademarked images in the first place? A recent court case demonstrates to us just how interesting and important this topic can be.

The Facts of the “Mongols” Case

The government has a point …

In multiple recent court cases, they have been trying to curb the influence of a Los Angeles biker gang called the Mongols. With around 1,000 members, this gang can well be considered a menace to society. They’ve already been convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, and other crimes. However, the way the government has approached the latest case is … legally tricky.

Prosecutors have attempted to seize the trademark of the Mongols’ logo, a Genghis Khan-looking fellow riding a motorcycle. They argue that the trademark is a product used to intimidate, just like a weapon. Since the government has tried, and failed, to curb the organization’s power, they feel that going after the logo will have a greater impact.

Here’s the problem …

A Logo Represents Free Speech

An L.A. judge ruled that the Mongols could not be stripped of their logo because doing so would infringe upon the organization’s first amendment rights of freedom of expression, as well as their eighth amendment rights banning excessive punishment. What that essentially means is that logos qualify as free speech. Several law professors agree, noting the constitutional issues a case like this raises.

The fact is that, even if the government took away an organization’s trademark, members would constitutionally still be able to wear their jackets with the patches on the back.

You see, there’s a difference between a company selling a trademarked item and an individual wearing a brand logo. If you developed a soft drink and used a Pepsi logo, Pepsi would understandably and legally come after you. If, on the other hand, you wore a biker gang’s logo on your back whenever you rode your Harley, there’s no commerce involved, and you’d be free to do so.

Not only that, but including trademark forfeiture as punishment for crime would set a strange and potentially troubling precedent. Imagine if a large company like Nike or Apple were accused of a crime in the course of their business. Taking a trademark away would be an odd punishment, since the meaning and value of these trademarks really exist in the minds of consumers.

What This Means for Your Business

Businesses understandably spend a lot of time designing and developing their logo. That’s because a logo is more than just an image: it’s a way for consumers to recognize your brand. It’s also a way for your business to convey your trustworthiness and quality. Once a logo is well-established, consumers associate different thoughts emotions with it. As an example, consider the way you feel when you see the Starbucks logo or the NBA logo … Whether you react positively or negatively, there’s certainly a reaction, right?  

Like a viral video, the influence of a particular logo can’t really be stopped. Nor can it be erased with a court case.

As trademark attorneys, we feel that every individual and company should have the freedom to brand themselves as they see fit.

We Can Help You Protect Your Business’ Logo

Do you need a reliable trademark attorney to sort through these issues with your company? Let us know. We specialize in intellectual property for entrepreneurs and can help you navigate these waters for the protection of your business.

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