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Hell's Angels Sue Disney for Trademark Infringement
March 12, 2006 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Bikers, Mousies, and big scary death heads The legendary Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club is suing Walt Disney, Buena Vista Motion Pictures, and a movie production company for trademark dilution and infringement for developing and producing “Wild Hogs,” a movie about “[a] group of middle-aged wannabe bikers look[ing] for adventure out on the open road, where they soon encounter a chapter of the Hell’s Angels.”
posted by dejah420 (33 comments total)

 
They are bullies, plain and simple. They have no respect for the simple, honest values this country is built on. It's time for someone to stand up to their strongarm tactics. When you have spent as much time as they have creating the institutions that make our nation great, and then someone comes along and tries to pull this kind of shady dealing...well, it just makes my blood boil.
posted by ColdChef at 10:13 AM on March 12, 2006


Disney or the bikers, Cold Chef?

(Oh, and its Hells Angels, no apostrophe.)
posted by docgonzo at 10:17 AM on March 12, 2006


You know who I'm talking about. The same ones who ruined southern California.
posted by ColdChef at 10:19 AM on March 12, 2006


Hmm, it's a little funny 3:08 in.
posted by delmoi at 10:33 AM on March 12, 2006


hahaha.

"White guys have hair on the arms, their back, even their butt. Girls really like that. That's something we don't have."

LOL.
posted by delmoi at 10:34 AM on March 12, 2006


I'm so confused.
posted by cosmonaught at 10:35 AM on March 12, 2006


delmoi - wrong thread.
posted by crawl at 10:52 AM on March 12, 2006


"delmoi - wrong thread."

I don't know about that. It seems it would fit in just about any thread.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2006


My favorite line in the lawsuit:

23. Defendants' commercial use of the Marks has and will cause dillution of the distinctive quality of the Marks by tarnishment.

"The Marks" being a helmeted, horned, and feathered skull. Further in the lawsuit it talks about various "death heads."

So Disney is basically tarnishing Hells Angels' reputation???
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2006


Sounds to me like the Hell's Angels have a perfectly legitimate case. It'll probably get settled out of court.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2006


I agree, Faint of Butt, that it's a legitimate case. But whoever thought that Hells Angels would ever, ever sue Disney for tarnishing their image?

The world has changed a whole lot.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:56 AM on March 12, 2006


You know who I'm talking about. The same ones who ruined southern California.
posted by ColdChef


very funny. :)
posted by nola at 11:00 AM on March 12, 2006


leftcoastbob writes "But whoever thought that Hells Angels would ever, ever sue Disney for tarnishing their image?"

The Angels sue people all the time, for trademark infringement and other things. They are especially fond of suing goverments and police forces for acting illegally and winning. One of the few organisations who can actually fight city hall and win. In a way their legal actions often have them playing organized crime's ACLU.
posted by Mitheral at 11:07 AM on March 12, 2006


Of course they sue cops. But don't you see even the teensiest bit of irony in them suing Disney?
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:12 AM on March 12, 2006


Where's the irony, bob? Disney is pure evil. HAMC is 99.9% evil.
posted by scratch at 11:34 AM on March 12, 2006


Yeah, it's a cage match. Whose lawyers are meaner? Stay tuned.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:22 PM on March 12, 2006


leftcoastbob, I believe the Disney you are referring to never actually existed, but if it did, it dissappeared a long time ago.
posted by 2sheets at 2:31 PM on March 12, 2006


2sheets, you're probably right. The Disney I'm thinking of only exists in my mind as a (false) memory from childhood.

I suppose that next you're going to tell me that Peter Pan actually did grow old and is selling used cars in Encino.
posted by leftcoastbob at 3:43 PM on March 12, 2006


Sounds to me like the Hell's Angels have a perfectly legitimate case.

Doesn't sound in the least bit legitimate to me. If this were to succeed, you'd never be able to reference any real-life institution in any movie or work of fiction. If they were the subject of the movie I might agree (though that could still put paid to any independant documentary) but I fail to see how the incidental appearance of a few characters who happen to belong to a motorcycle club that counts its members in the thousands is in any way a diminution of their trademark. If anything, it probably enhances their trademark.

Presumably, they're going after the nuisance value lawsuit, on the basis that it would be cheaper to punt them a couple of thousand than it would to reshoot/edit those scenes in the movie or fight the thing in court.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:57 PM on March 12, 2006


If this were to succeed, you'd never be able to reference any real-life institution in any movie or work of fiction.

But you can't without permission, can you? I was under the impression that, for instance, you couldn't have a shot of a can of Coke in a movie, or a shot of a recognizable store-front, without obtaining permission from the relevant company first. Of course now, companies are clamoring for the rights to have their products featured in movies, the idea still stands. Featuring a trademark in a movie without permission is as illegal is any other use of trademarks without permission.

Doesn't mean I agree with that, but it's the impression I have.
posted by Jimbob at 4:19 PM on March 12, 2006


PeterMcDermott writes "If this were to succeed, you'd never be able to reference any real-life institution in any movie or work of fiction."

Yep. Whacked isn't it?
posted by Mitheral at 6:37 PM on March 12, 2006


In the alternate universe I inhabit, the judge awards the Hells Angels victory in partial compensation orders Disney to give the Hells Angels permanent license to wear The Ears, The Tail, and The Shorts With Big Buttons while on official rides and while visiting Disneyland on official trips.

Picture it ....
posted by hank at 6:45 PM on March 12, 2006


hank, that's perfect. When I get crowned Emperor, you're on the Supreme Court.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:00 PM on March 12, 2006


Hell, make him the entire Supreme Court. Funny Justice Must Be Served!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:30 AM on March 13, 2006


The larger implications of this are hilarious.

Could the Crips sue for Libel? Can the Mexican Mafia start making political contributions?

Even stranger... does this mean that the Hells Angels have a board? For them to be a corporation, don't they have to issue some kind of stock to the primary owners?

Mitheral... that's pretty interesting, their other legal activities. I see they just settled a case with the city of Santa Clara last month, netting nearly a million dollars. (here's the original complaint.)
posted by ph00dz at 5:39 AM on March 13, 2006


Where’s Howard Hughes?

The Angels are a club, bylaws and whatnot. That doesn’t figure into the 1%er thing, but they’re still an MC.
I think they’re still smarting from Hunter Thompson’s book. Thought they should have gotten paid if people were going to make money from their rep.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:25 AM on March 13, 2006


They are a club unlike a gang or purely criminal organization I mean.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:26 AM on March 13, 2006


Smedley - It's been more than 20 years since I had regular contact with the HA, but unless things have changed, they are a club because it lets them pretend to be something other than a purely criminal organization.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2006


PeterMcDermott writes "If this were to succeed, you'd never be able to reference any real-life institution in any movie or work of fiction."

Untrue. It just means you couldn't appropriate and use without compensation the trademarked branding of another corporate entity. Which, ya know...is the law. It has been the law for as long as we've had trademarks. That's the whole *point* of trademarking a brand/emblem/sigil/ etc.

Starbucks successfully sued a comic artist for dillution of brand. Comic artist. Underground, nonfinancially sucessful comic artist. And won. Because the law is very clear about trademark dillution.

In this case, HA does have the law in their corner. If Disney (Evil Empire) (tm) had used "Hells Grannies" or The Skulking Vultures, or anyother club name that wasn't an incorporated, legally protected trademark, there wouldn't have been an issue...but the Evil Ones decided, probably against the recommendations of their legal department, that they wanted to make a stand by using the Angels. I think they'll lose in court. And they should. This is not the right case to overturn 200 years of trademark law.

The angels may be a drug running, gang raping, human hunting tribe of neowarriors, but they were smart enough to figure out how to make the law work for them. And when it comes to the Angels vs. Disney, it's really hard to decide who is the lesser of the two evils, isn't it?
posted by dejah420 at 9:02 AM on March 13, 2006


“...they are a club because it lets them pretend to be something other than a purely criminal organization.” - posted by Kirth Gerson

Agreed. Smart, innit?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:00 PM on March 13, 2006


So long as they can get it to work. That I-AADL didn't do so much for the Mafia, it seems. Maybe they should have franchised out their brand as "clubs".
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:21 PM on March 13, 2006


Well, Kirth Gerson if the outfit could find some sort of legitimate club sort of thing to band around they might. Bocci maybe.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:39 PM on March 13, 2006


In a street fight, the smart money is on the Angels. . . but in a courtroom, I dunno, them Disney goons have got themselves some pretty scary lawyers.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:54 PM on March 13, 2006


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