Federal Government Attempts to Seize Mongol Nation Logo
The federal government is trying to confiscate more than just the physical property of Mongol Nation, a California motorcycle club. The government wants the club’s intellectual property as well. For the second time in several years, it seeks to seize the Mongol Nation logo, over which the group holds trademark rights. In 2008, the first time federal prosecutors tried, it had already convicted more than eighty Mongol Nation members, mostly on racketeering and conspiracy charges. But the American Civil Liberties Union teamed up with the club to halt what its attorney called “an outrageous violation of the First Amendment and an absolute abuse of forfeiture and trademark laws.”
The seizure appears to be an attempt to limit the group’s public influence and appeal. One U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson argued: “The property we seek to forfeit is intellectual property, the trademarks, but that property was used in direct relation to a wide range of illegal activity … If we prevail in the current case, no member of the gang would be allowed to wear the trademark that we believe is synonymous with the group.”
But some commentators have labeled this attempted seizure “at best peculiar and at worst borderline incoherent” in large part because trademark rights are “negative” rights. They don’t give the owner rights; they simply allow the owner to stop other people from doing certain things. So even if the U.S. government successfully seized the trademark rights, that’s all they’d be seizing: Mongol Nation’s rights to stop other people from doing things. It seems unlikely that the government could stop club members from wearing the Mongol Nation logo through this seizure.
Sources: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/22/a-new-twist-on-asset-forfeiture/ http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/05/21/feds-go-after-motorcycle-gang-members-by-claiming-rights-to-their-logo/ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3090757/Feds-biker-gang-members-claiming-rights-logos.html http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/10/08/170906/legal-battle-over-mongols-clubs.html
For more information on this topic, please visit our Trademark Protection service page, which is part of our Trademark practice.
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