Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Freeze, Trademark Police!

First it was Al Capone on tax evasion. Now it's the Mongols on trademark infringement. Coming next: Osama bin Ladin popped for jaywalking.
In an apparently unprecedented maneuver, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles want to use asset forfeiture laws to seize the trademarked name Mongols from the motorcycle gang.
Here's the lede:
WASHINGTON — Uncle Sam could end up owning the name of the Mongols, a West Coast motorcycle gang accused by federal prosecutors of "crimes and acts of violence."
And here's the story:
If prosecutors succeed, the feds will own the Mongols trademark and can charge patch-wearing gang members with trademark infringement; or, at the least, have one more reason to stop them for a little sidewalk chat. Which is bound to irritate the gang members. Which may be the point.
Pretty weird; maybe clever, maybe a mite troublesome. Read the story to find out! But here's the journalism lesson.
Turns out, the federal Patent and Trademark Office maintains a nifty searchable database. Starting at, you can get the trademark documents for, say, the Hells Angels, or the Mongols, Brotherhood Nomads, Wicked Women MC or whichever other fraternal organization strikes your fancy.

No comments: