We’ve always considered trademarking as a way to protect a company’s intellectual property and to aid consumers in identifying trusted products and services.
But on Tuesday, we stumbled on a novel use of intellectual-property law put into play by an alleged organized crime syndicate founded in Southern California.
The Vagos Motocrycle Club, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation has declared an outlaw motorcycle gang, has trademarked its jacket patch, replete with the trademark registration symbol, “in an effort to prevent law enforcement agencies from inserting undercover officers into their organization,” according to an FBI memo that surfaced on Tuesday.
The 2011 “law enforcement sensitive” memo (.pdf), unearthed by the Public Intelligence blog, warns infiltrating law enforcement officers that they “may be placing themselves in danger” if they don’t have the registration symbol at the bottom of the 600-member club’s patch, which is an insignia of Loki, the god of mischief.
Trademarking is often done to prevent others from copying a work or brand without permission or compensation. So presumably, the gang was under the impression that undercover law enforcement officials would stop trying to infiltrate the gang out of fear of breaching the club’s trademarked logo.
At least that’s what the FBI’s memo says.
“By doing this, the Vagos believe they will have exclusive rights to the Vagos patch and no one, including undercover officers, would be able to wear the patch without the consent of the International Vagos OMG (Outlaw Motorcycle Gang) leadership,” the memo said.
The club’s trademark attorney, Joseph Yanny of Los Angeles, did not immediately return a call to comment on the FBI’s memo.
Unfortunately for the Vagos, the FBI isn’t going to blink at a little trademark infringement — just like an undercover cop isn’t going to say he’s a narc if you asked him — as a generation of stoners seemed to think.