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Feds Target "Mongols" Biker Club's Intellectual Property 393

Posted by kdawson
from the shirt-off-your-back dept.
couchslug writes in with a Reuters account of a Federal raid on a California-based motorcycle club, the Mongols, on charges "ranging from murder and robbery to extortion, money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing." The interesting twist is that the authorities are asking the courts to seize the IP of the biker club — specifically, their trademarked name "Mongols." "Federal agents and police in seven states arrested more than 60 members of the Mongols motorcycle gang on Tuesday in a sweep that also targeted for the first time an outlaw group's 'intellectual property,' prosecutors said. The arrests cap a three-year undercover investigation in which US agents posed as gang members and their girlfriends to infiltrate the group, even submitting to polygraph tests administered by the bikers ... [T]he name 'Mongols,' which appears on the gang's arm patch insignia, was trademarked by the group. The indictment seeks a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any police officer 'who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back' ..."
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Feds Target "Mongols" Biker Club's Intellectual Property

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:52PM (#25462567) Homepage Journal

    I'm not aware of any law that can prevent a particular logo from appearing on a jacket.

    This sounds like pipe dream bullshit.

    • by ushering05401 (1086795) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:07PM (#25462733) Journal

      I grew up in L.A. and had an integrated social circle that drew from a pretty wide swath of communities. After what happened in '92 there was legally sanctioned trouble for people wearing certain clothes, having certain tattoos etc. I know that someone will inevitably point out that the policies were eventually scaled back, but there was a time in L.A. where law abiding youths of certain appearances/demographics literally had to fear the legally authorized power wielded by police.

      IIRC the Rampart scandal grew out of policies put in place after '92...

      The world has changed since those days, and I fear that this development is not pipe dream bullshit as you suggest.

      On another note: Forgive the Godwin, and correct me if I am wrong, but don't some European countries have criminal penalties for displaying a swastika even in the form of satire or parody?

      • by eltaco (1311561) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:34PM (#25462987)
        On another note: Forgive the Godwin, and correct me if I am wrong, but don't some European countries have criminal penalties for displaying a swastika even in the form of satire or parody?

        yes, most prominently, and possibly the only one, germany. swastikas and generally nazi symbols which have glorifying character are forbidden. satire, parody and historical uses are legal. for instance "der untergang" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363163/) can show swastikas and do the heil hitler thingy. In contrast, the german version of the movie eurotrip (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0356150/) had the scene cut out, where the german kid drew himself a hitler mustache and paced like a nazi.
        games like return to castle wolfenstein aren't sold in germany.
        also, it's is illegal to deny the holocaust and can lead to imprisonment.
        • I think France has similar laws, and Austria may, too.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by viridari (1138635)

          So in trying desperately to distance itself from the Nazi legacy, the German government has effectively become a bunch of Nazis again.

          • by DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:00AM (#25465409)

            So in trying desperately to distance itself from the Nazi legacy, the German government has effectively become a bunch of Nazis again.

            There is broad support for these measures in the German public. It's not like "the government" had imposed an evil ban on those cute little Swastikas. Rather, it is commonly accepted that we need to limit free speech a tiny little bit to weed out the rot from a society that almost caused Europe to collapse barely 70 years ago.

            In turn, these symbols have become so socially inacceptable that you can be sure anyone sporting them deserves a night in a cell, at the very least, in any case.

            • by theaveng (1243528) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @06:25AM (#25465973)

              "Tyranny of the majority" is still tyranny and still damages the individual right to free speech or freedom of worship. What about Indians or Hindus living in Germany? They use the swastika as a symbol of their religion, representing both good luck and God's providence. Are they forbidden from the free exercise of their religion? If so then basic rights have been violated.

          • by RichiH (749257) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:45AM (#25465569) Homepage

            Sorry for going ad hominem on you, but the mis-use of the term 'Nazi' for 'grammar nazi' etc is bad enough.

            But to imply that by creating legal countermeasures to the glorification and/or denying of the Nazi homocide, crimes, regime and lore, the German government has become the thing they are trying to prevent is so utterly and totally ignorant, stupid, demeaning, wrong and a hundred other bad and worse things it makes me wonder why you are able to remember to breathe.
            You are trivializing the Third Reich and its crimes in a way I have only seen from people who are actual neo-Nazis.

            The same goes, to quite some extent, to whoever modded you Insightful.

            I would appreciate a reply from both you & whoever modded you in a positive way (which would eleminate some mod points in the process).

    • by retchdog (1319261) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:12PM (#25462785) Journal

      In principle, the government can nationalize the trademark and after that, enforce against "unauthorized use" by the bikers. It would (should) eventually fail if challenged, because it's after all an end-run around the real problem. I also don't think it would work in the first place.

      Also, in principle you're not supposed to be able to get a tasteless or obscene trademark, just like copyright didn't used to apply to banned books. This ought to include gang insignia afaic. But then again, there were a bunch of alcoholic drinks named after Katrina which got trademarked, so I guess the trademark people are asleep just like the patent people.

      • In principle, the government can nationalize the trademark and after that, enforce against "unauthorized use" by the bikers

        Don't they then have to defend the trade mark? Show that they are using it? It might have to appear on Government stationary ;)

        • by rk (6314) * on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:19PM (#25463411) Journal
          Wow, the government using a logo of a criminal gang. Truth in advertising at long last!
        • by NormalVisual (565491) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:23PM (#25463445)
          Don't they then have to defend the trade mark?

          I'd think so, which brings to mind a way to deal with the idiocy if the government chooses to go down that road - simply make it known to the government that you're using the trademark via certified letter, and get as many people as you know to do the same, and let the cycle continue. You'd have be ready for the potential legal consequences (dilution, etc.), since there's a pretty big potential of confusion between the Feds and the Mongols, being that they're both armed gangs with a limited grasp on the concept of freedom and all.
    • I'm not aware of any law that can prevent a particular logo from appearing on a jacket.

      It seems only tangentially related to trademark law; the reference in TFA to a racketeering indictment makes it seem pretty likely that they are looking for, an order under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, specifically, 18 USC Sect. 1963(a) [cornell.edu], declaring that the trademarked logo, and the tangible items created using the trademarked logo, are "property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:08PM (#25463325)

        The one most other posters seem to be missing. This is a RICO case. Well, part of RICO is the ability to seize assets related to the criminal enterprise. So for example if a company was a front for money laundering, that company could be seized. Doesn't matter that it was the semi-legit front, since it was a part of the criminal enterprise, it is subject to seizure.

        So this isn't an IP issue, that's really a small part. It would be the same thing if they brought down a company under RICO, they'd take the company's name and such. IT all falls under the idea of "You can't profit from your crime."

    • I'm just amazed that a criminal organization would file a legal TRADEMARK.

      Seriously. Were they going to SUE someone for infringement?

      And a polygraph?

      Man, biker gangs have certainly changed since I was a kid.

      You wearing the wrong colors! Man, you goin' be facing a' injunction! We gots badass LAWYERS who be totally down with dat state bar stuf!

  • by NevarMore (248971) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:53PM (#25462581) Homepage Journal

    If police informants can pass and beat a polygraph in a situation where they would be killed on the spot*, then how can the same test when used against people charged with a crime is still admissible as evidence?

    *if the common perception of the 1%-ers is to be belived

    • If you're investigating someone for murder, you better believe they could kill you.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:06PM (#25462709)

      Actually, polygraphs are inadmissable in the US court system.

    • then how can the same test when used against people charged with a crime is still admissible as evidence?

      In the United States, polygraphs results are not admissible in court. They are only used in investigations, and even that practice is controversial.

    • by Dun Malg (230075)

      If police informants can pass and beat a polygraph in a situation where they would be killed on the spot*, then how can the same test when used against people charged with a crime is still admissible as evidence?

      It's not admissible as evidence.

    • by xs650 (741277) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:25PM (#25462905)
      "If police informants can pass and beat a polygraph in a situation where they would be killed on the spot*, then how can the same test when used against people charged with a crime is still admissible as evidence?"

      That's because government liars are professionals.
    • Real simple there. They also can't make you take one. They are sometimes used in investigations either because they pressure someone to take one or because the person want to take it to try and prove innocence, but it isn't something you see much of. Polygraphs aren't reliable. They are a useful tool in some cases, and they are used when you try to get a security clearance, but they aren't 100% reliable and aren't admissible, at least in the US.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pete-classic (75983)

      if the common perception of the 1%-ers is to be belived

      I'm reading that with a tone of skepticism. If that's not what you intended then this is only intended for those who misinterpret you the same way I did.

      The name itself is a claim to be the thing that they are commonly perceived to be. The one-percent of "outlaws" that gives the other 99% of MC members a bad name.

      This perception isn't unfair.

      They deserve their rights, and I don't know enough about this decision to comment on it, but these are bad peop

  • Nimrods (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:54PM (#25462599)

    The indictment seeks a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any police officer 'who sees a Mongol wearing this patch... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back'..."

    Some douche licker apparently never heard of the right of first sale.

    • by TheMCP (121589)

      They will after a cop gets jailed for theft.

  • easy fix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by heptapod (243146) <heptapod@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:01PM (#25462661) Journal

    Get tattoos of their logo/insignia. Get it someplace prominent and call out the cops to try and take it from them. I doubt law enforcement is going to start a collection of biker lampshades.

  • by longacre (1090157) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:04PM (#25462691) Homepage
    So we would still be able to wear swastikas, KKK logos, Iran Revolutionary Guard insignias and NWA "Fuck the Police" t-shirts, but a patch from some gang most of the world never heard of would be a crime?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:05PM (#25462695)

    The Mongolian embassy might have something to say about it :-)

  • by GrahamCox (741991) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:08PM (#25462743) Homepage
    I find it hard to imagine a single intellectual amongst them.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:20PM (#25462855) Homepage Journal

    In the US, but this is beyond the pale. There are already laws like RICO which can be used to shut down corrupt organizations.

    If this is allowed to set precedent, the Feds will literally be allowed to steal a company's trademark if anyone employed by the company does something illegal. I'm reminded of the Steve Jackson Games fiasco where the Feds seized their computers because one of their employees illegally downloaded a document from AT & T that same was selling for $17. (IIRC)

    I seriously doubt that seizing a gang's name is going to deter them the least. At worst, they'll just change their name. This is more about expanding the power of the Federal government than it is about law enforcement. With civil forfeiture laws extending to copyright violations, soon the day will come when police departments will shore up their budgets by seizing computers under the guise of copyright enforcement ("Can you prove that copy of Windows wasn't pirated? I didn't think so...")

  • The Crucible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak.eircom@net> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:26PM (#25462911) Homepage Journal

    Proctor:
    "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!
    Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the
    dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name?
    I have given you my soul; leave me my name!"

    American justice has never been renowned for its mercy. Or its justice for that matter.

  • by carlzum (832868) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:31PM (#25462957)
    For all of you alarmists that claimed IP regulation would be misused by the government and reach beyond trade and artistic works were totally off base. It hasn't led to rampant surveillance, corporate intimidation of citizens and small businesses, or the police indiscriminately stopping motorists and tearing the clothes off their backs. Oh crap, it has? Is it too late to change our minds?
  • Law enforcement hasn't stopped using racial profiling, their own statistics (though not conclusions) say so

    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hjyQqKOJRj4Sp6capLjCY5RoXm2gD93UPH900 [google.com]

    So... why exactly are they going to this trouble then? Worried about the massive protests that would break out if they were percieved as discriminating against a legitimate trademark?

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:00PM (#25463257) Journal

    Agent Bob: They've committed murder and robbery to extortion, money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing. What are we going to do?
    Agent Dan: I have just the thing that will hurt them. Let's seize their name!
    Agent Bob: That's brilliant! They're thugs. We all know thugs are thick. Coming up with a new name will be hard on them. They'll spend so much time coming up with a name their crime spree will be over!
    Agent Dan: That's why they pay me the big bucks. Lets go get some donuts.
    Agent Bob: Don't you think donuts are a little cliche?
    Agent Dan: We're not regular cops Bob. Besides we can always change their name to dough-rings.
    Agent Bob: That'll confuse people...Renaming things. Brilliant. I'm in awe of your wisdom. You truly are a law enforcement agent of the times.

  • If you use their trademark they kill you.

  • by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:31PM (#25463503) Homepage
    If I'm a criminal operating under a gang insignia and you take it away from me. I will not curtail my nefarious activities - I'll change the name of my criminal group and move on with my life. You've spend thousands - I'm out a patch for my leather jacket and a trademark application.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @11:02PM (#25463813) Homepage

    This is the first time I have heard of stripping an entity of its intellectual property rights unless it was an undeserved or inappropriate patent or trademark.

    This would be a great precedent. And the next time Microsoft is charged with something, part of the punishment would be losing "Windows" or maybe even the copyright on Office 2003 or something.

  • by FurtiveGlancer (1274746) <AdHocTechGuy@a o l .com> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @11:15PM (#25463929) Journal
    You post an article regarding police seizure of the intellectual property of a notorious biker club. That alone is unique and praisworthy. Then the legal minds of the /. contiuum "educate" us all on trademark and IP law, albeit with the factual confidence level of an exceedingly obscure wikipedia article. Why work, when I have such exotic entertainment available? Ah, yes; the deadline.
  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @11:27PM (#25464035) Homepage

    And thus the phrase was born, "Damn that is one ugly biker chick."

    Transporter_ii

  • what's the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ffflala (793437) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @11:34PM (#25464079)

    Not only will the injunction outlawing the logo will fail spectacularly on 1st amendment grounds, but the very concept of outlawing a gang's insignia will just give the Mongols additional street cred, as they are now more-badass-than-thou.

    "Our gang is so bad, our insignia is illegal. The very mention of our name will get you arrested. Think about us and you're committing a crime, brother!" Etc.

    It just gives the gang additional appeal to the probable suckers who'd join a criminal biker gang in the first place.

  • by gibbled (215234) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:46AM (#25464543)

    Wouldn't this make all law enforcement officers become official Fashion Police?

  • by Chicken04GTO (957041) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @08:21AM (#25466553)
    I know you are all sheltered nerds and everything, but this isn't about IP, or any such silly thing. For a biker, his gang patch/colors is damn near sacrosanct. The cops know this, and by being able to just take it anytime they want, its a form of humiliation. It like taking a persons of faiths cross/hijab/torah whatever just because.

    When I was younger and worked in fire/rescue, we were actually trained to NEVER take a bikers jacket off in an emergency without permission from the biker or if he was unconscious his friends. Yes, they were that rabid about it. This is about humiliation, and the cops rubbing salt in the wound, to let them know whose boss. For guys who value independence and strength, its a big deal. HUMILATION, not IP or law enforcement. I for one find this very disturbing. Since when is it the polices job to humiliate and degrade people because of their affiliations? Oh wait.

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