Fashion designers, take note: Copying other people’s work is far from the sincerest form of flattery – especially when you’re messing with biker gangs.
The Hells Angels are suing Hollywood fashion house Wildfox for using their name on a T-shirt, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The offending item is emblazoned with the words “My boyfriend’s a Hells Angel” and features a pair of angel wings on the back.
Both infringe upon the Hells Angels’ trademark name and logo, according to the motorcycle club’s attorney, Fritz Clapp.
“We bring these lawsuits from time to time not just to punish but to educate,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “Somebody thought erroneously that Hells Angels is a generic term.”
The U.S. Department of Justice describes the Hells Angels as an OMG (outlaw motorcycle gang) of roughly 800 members that “pose a criminal threat on six continents.” According to the Justice Department, the club is involved in the production and dealing of illegal street drugs as well as criminal activity such as assault, extortion, homicide, money laundering and motorcycle theft (Harleys, no doubt).
But even as law enforcers slap them with criminal charges, the Hells Angels aren’t too busy for legal action of their own. Over the years, the gang has filed lawsuits against Disney, Marvel Comics and the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen for illegal use of the Hells Angels name and “death head” logo, as well as retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue for carrying the goods.
Allegations of copyright infringement are rampant in the fashion world. In May, fashion blogs were atwitter as Chicago jewellery designer and Etsy seller Stevie Koerner accused Urban Outfitters of copying her creations.
And in June, Forever 21 – a clothing giant that has been sued multiple times for copyright infringement – issued a cease-and-desist letter to blogger Rachel Kane for poking fun at its brand on a satiric website exploding with F-bombs.
As for the Hells Angels, regardless of any alleged wrongdoings, they have as much legal right to protect their brand as anyone else.
But it’s hard not to wonder which of these leather-clad renegades are spending their days browsing the fashion pages.
How far should brands go to fight copyright infringement? In this open-source era, is it time for people to lighten up – even the Hells Angels?