May 1, 2019
The Mongols Motorcycle Club, based primarily in southern California but boasting more than 1000 members worldwide, is a notorious biker gang known for its alleged criminal activities and also, apparently, for its trademarked logo.
The logo depicts a Mongolian man wearing sunglasses and riding a chopper-style motorcycle. For years, federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been trying to strip the Mongols of their logo, claiming it is worn as a badge of intimidation. As reported in The Star, prosecutors began their trademark quest a decade ago, following an infiltration by agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that ultimately led to 77 gang members being convicted of racketeering.
In late February, 2019, a California judge found in favour of the Mongols, holding that requiring the group to forfeit its logo would be unconstitutional. According to the National Post, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter ruled that forfeiture of the Mongol trademark would violate First Amendment rights to freedom of association and Eighth Amendment protections against excessive penalties. Justice Carter noted that “though the symbol may at times function as a mouthpiece for unlawful or violent behaviour, this is not sufficient to strip speech of its First Amendment protection.”
Thom Mrozek, spokesperson for the U.S. attorney, has indicated prosecutors were disappointed with the ruling and may appeal.
Authors: Amanda Bertucci and Anna Condon