|May 23, 2012|
Previously published on May 2012
Motorcycling is a sport, right?
Intellectual property rights in sports-related items is something we report on, right?
Stay with me now....
The Public Intelligence blog recently reported on a confidential memo circulated by the Los Angeles Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, regarding a trademark registration obtained by the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Club. According to the leaked memo, the Club (which is referred to in the memo as an “outlaw motorcycle gang”) obtained the registration in 2010 for its club logo, or “cuts” (also sometimes referred to as its “colors”).
The memo has a serious purpose: warning law enforcement agencies that the Club is passing out the patches containing the ® registration mark on a controlled basis to new members as they are vetted by the Club leadership. According to the memo, the purpose of obtaining the trademark registration is "to prevent law enforcement agencies from inserting undercover officers into their organization." Any undercover agents attempting to infiltrate the Club without a patch containing the trademark registration mark "may be placing themselves in danger," says the memo.
But the FBI memo further suggests that the Club leadership is of the view that obtaining a trademark registration for its "cuts" will deter undercover officers from wearing the patch, presumably because the FBI would fear a trademark infringement lawsuit by an outlaw motorcycle gang.
When interviewed by Wired Magazine regarding the posting of the FBI memo, the Club's attorney, Joseph Yanny, commented: "It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life," and the Bureau must have come to its conclusions about the trademark registration by "interviewing clowns in Vegas."
Yanny says that the Club's reason for obtaining the trademark registration is the same reason that any other sports club might have, that is "to protect the intellectual property, to prevent it from being knocked off by others, and improper use."
The Club has an official Web site, but a while back, when we went to check it for more information about this controversy, all we got was a "bandwidth limit exceeded" message. Could this entire story have been a crafty ploy on the part of the FBI to thwart the Club's Web outreach, by generating publicity about the Club's trademark registration, and, in turn, excessive hits on their Web site by curious intellectual property mavens, resulting in its unavailability?
If so, well played, FBI, well played.