Motorcycle Gang Fighting Trademark Seizure

The Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club is not giving up its trademarks without a fight. The California-based group recently filed a lawsuit contesting the federal government’s attempt to seize its intellectual property under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

According to the Mongols, it should not be held liable for the criminal acts of a few of its members. Moreover, the Department of Justice is exceeding the realm of RICO by seizing the club’s trademarks.

“The government is improperly attempting to seize the collective marks of the club and its members because the RICO forfeiture statute is an in personam mechanism that can only be employed against individuals committing a crime under RICO and cannot be applied against the club which bears no responsibility for the actions of members who act outside of the scope of their membership with the club,” the complaint states.

Interestingly, this is the second time the federal government has tried to sanction the group by taking away its IP rights. In Ramon Rivera v. Ronnie Carter, the Mongols successfully argued that the government could not prohibit all of the club’s members from displaying the mark simply because several of its members were indicted for criminal activity.

In the latest lawsuit, the Mongols claim that the DOJ has reinstituted its seizure efforts because the club dissolved and reincorporated under a new entity in 2012. “Here, the government attempts to re-litigate the same issue with what it will construe as a different party,” the complaint states.

The Mongols further argue that the seizure infringes their First Amendment Rights.  “The marks and their embodiment in the form of patches are collectively owned by the club and the members as a whole. The marks were determined in Rivera to be collective membership marks. The collective membership marks are expressions of free speech thereby protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

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– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +