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Hells Angels file suit against Alexander McQueen

In decades past, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club settled disputes the old-fashioned way, with a swift kick in the groin or a punch in the face to the offending party. On Monday, the outlaw club opted for a more civilized action. It filed a lawsuit against the designer fashion label Alexander McQueen, along with retailers Saks Fifth Avenue and Zappos, claiming they illegally sold McQueen items that use the trademarked Hells Angels name and Mcqueenring death head design in rings, clutch purses, scarves and dresses.

“There’s no doubt in my mind the designer had seen the death head mark,” said Hells Angels’ intellectual property attorney, Fritz Clapp, who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

One week prior, Clapp had received a text message from a club member’s fiancee who was shopping online and saw a “Hells four-finger ring” on that was strikingly similar to the winged skull the club had used as its logo for decades. Clapp continued his online search and soon also found a “Hells knuckle duster” clutch purse for sale on

“Then I go to Alexander McQueen’s site and I find not only is the word ‘Hells’ used on those things, but ‘Hells Angels,’ the whole phrase, on a pashmina scarf and a Jacquard dress,” Clapp said. “If you’d said to the designer, ‘Just give me a side view skull with feathers coming off of it and they’d never seen the death head or a Hells Angels patch and they’d just come from Mars, it’s still closer than comfort.”

Clapp said he opted to file a suit rather than send a cease-and- desist letter because “it has a certain instructive quality in the public and in the market: Advertisers and businesses and lawyers are reminded that the Hells Angels name and logo are protected marks, commercially as well as on the street.”

The Hells Angels lawsuit relies on a 1982 registration protecting the Hells Angels name and multiple registrations from 1984, 2002, 2007 and 2009 protecting the death head from being copied in jewelry, clocks, watches, earrings, key rings and other items without permission.

The newest lawsuit is the latest in a string of trademark infringement suits the club has filed since 1992, when the club sued Marvel Entertainment Group over a Hells Angels comic book; the suit was settled when Marvel changed the name of the comic to Dark Angel and donated $20,000 to Ronald McDonald’s charities. After subsequent lawsuits against a skateboard manufacturer and an action sportswear line, the club, in 2006, sued Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group for its potential portrayal of the club in the film "Wild Hogs." That suit was voluntarily dismissed.

The current lawsuit seeks the immediate removal of the Alexander McQueen items from sale and display. Spokespeople for Alexander McQueen and Saks Fifth Avenue had no comment on the suit.

The defendants have until Nov. 15 to respond to the complaint.

 -- Susan Carpenter

More All The Rage coverage of Alexander McQueen

Photo: An Alexander McQueen ring is among the items by the label that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club alleges violates its trademark. Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue

Comments () | Archives (11)

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Certainly no one like the high-school dropouts of the 1960s can afford those tricked out bikes of today. Harley riders have morphed into fat old Republican corporation men, the epitome of unhip. Who is surprised that the former enemy of the system now works with it? Hells Angels has lost its cachet, and I suspect the subject Alexander McQueen items don't sell too well anyway.

I recall a Three Stooges short in which Larry, Moe and Curly are in a haunted house. For some reason, there is a parrot there, too. The parrot crawls into a skull, and flies around the room, the image being a skull with wings swooping down on the three knuckleheads.

I believe this film was made prior to 1948, so it would seem the Hell's Angels should pay royalties to the Three Stooges!

A very fitting encounter! The outre Hells Angels v. the wonderfully bizarre McQueen fashion folk - Alexander & Izzy Blow must be laughing their butts off in their grave.

The ring looks more mordern astec to me. This lawsuit just seems to me like Hells Angels is saying that any scull with feathered wings is theirs. You can't design anything like that without their okay. You also can't you the name Hells Angels for anything without their ok as well. Thats not right, that phrase of wards was in this world before the club. Why should they be the only ones to have rights to it. What if people you that phrase or a design similar in a way that has nothing to do with that club, are they going to have a lawsuit on their hands too?, no matter how different it is?

Nice to see the Hells Angels are getting organized.

Leneor, it's called copyright law. It's a trademarked name and symbol, just like McDonalds. Just like Macy's. Just like everything Disney has ever touched. They are the only ones who should have the rights to it because they registered it, paid for it, and trademarked it. Just like Disney is the only one who has rights to Mickey Mouse. Just like McDonald's has the rights to the words "Big Mac". Both of those companies sue the crap out of anyone who makes a profit off of their imagery, why shouldn't the Hells Angels? Or anyone else for that matter? It's funny how megacorporations can get away with this kind of thing all day long, and no one says anything.

If someone trademarks a symbol or title for their own profit or use and you use that symbol or title for profit yourself, you are liable for damages. Even if you're a crappy designer, and the trademark is off of the back of a biker jacket.

To: Leneor | October 28, 2010 at 04:25 PM , the name and design have a copy write that has been in place for over three decades. It is the law! The same type of law that protects books and music and film from being claimed or used by people other then the creators.

To: James Jackson | October 27, 2010 at 07:25 PM , No these are not the military veterans that started the club back in the 50’s. Today the club is more organized and is world wide. In some ways it is much more dangerous to cross them. And don’t confuse the posers with the real Harley riders or club members. Just sit in your Volvo and keep the windows up.

Many of you fail to remember, if you were even alive then, how the Hells Angles were sought after to attend Hollywood parties in the 60’s and 70’s. They were the style for the budding Hollywood leftist crowd until they listened to them and found out they were very patriotic. Then Hollywood turned on them. As for the fashion designer, he needs to stop what he is doing. If a club member saw a woman wearing a dress with their patch on it he would think she was just some slut club Mama waiting to be turned out. And legally, what is the difference between this and someone stealing Bugs Bunny or Charlie Brown and putting that all over a shirt or dress?

To Thomas in N'Port: Hollywood, and many many others, didn't turn against the Angels because they were 'patriotic' - but because they killed the guy at Altamont.

This is such a farse! I am a tattoo artist and I have had millions of people ask for skulls with wings, who themselves had no affiliation with the god forsaken hells angels..are you going to sue me? Its art people! This ignoraimous, uneducated, "rebel" corporate, Bike gang should be more than honored to have inspired such a genius as Alexander Mcqueen!!!
And seriously, God rest his beautiful soul, he just passed, do not curse his name with your unrightful arrogance

Nice...give those snooty designers a little taste of their own medicine..."oh waaa everybody's copying my stuff in china using slave children"..."nobody buy counterfeits". Just shows you how uncreative fashion really is. Who would wear a dress with hells angels printed on it anyways?

Guess they thought the HA's were a bunch of dumb bikers -


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