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Trademark Law Meets Criminal Law

This seems to me a questionable tactic. The feds are going after the Mongols, a criminal enterprise on wheels, and they want to seize control of their trademarks so that they can harass people wearing Mongols T-shirts.

But the most lasting blow to the San Gabriel Valley-based bikers may be down the road: In an unusual maneuver, the feds are also seeking to seize control of the Mongols’ trademarked name, which is typically accompanied by its cherished insignia — a ponytailed Genghis Khan-like figure riding a chopper.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien said if his plan is successful, the government would take over ownership of the trademark, and anyone caught wearing a Mongols patch could have it seized by law enforcement on the spot.
“Not only are we going after the Mongols’ motorcycles, we’re going after their very identity,” O’Brien said in a telephone interview early this morning. “We are using all the tools at our disposal to crush this violent gang.”

(What about trademark tattoos? That could get ugly.)
This sounds like an over-reach to me. There’s a problem with amateur gang-bangers in my neighborhood, but I don’t think you can drive down the street and arrest everybody wearing a red sweatsuit, or de-pants them. And this could very quickly get into legitimate free-speech issues. It’s not hard to imagine a pamphlet or other form of communication being seized or suppressed under similar pretext.


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