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Mongols Bike Gang Embroiled in Controversial Legal Battle
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives conducted a lengthy undercover investigation into the inner workings and dealings of several Mongol motorcycle gang members. In October 2008, Los Angeles, California prosecutors announced mass indictments of Mongols motorcycle gang members and secured more than 80 convictions for racketeering and conspiracy. In addition to seizing 1.8 billion dollars’ worth of firearms, ammunition, stacks of money, and other physical assets, the prosecutors claimed the Mongols’ trademarked name and logo as well. The U.S. Attorney O’Brien even declared that if “any law enforcement officer sees a Mongol wearing his patch, he will be authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back”.
Since then there has been quite a controversy over the rights to the trademarked logo and name. In 2009, the Justice Department agreed not to seize the Mongols’ trademark, and a Los Angeles judge ruled last year that the trademark belonged to the organization as a whole and not specifically to individual members. Last February, another federal judge added that he believed the Justice Department should pay the costs incurred in the trademark fight because they had violated the First Amendment and trademark laws.
Now it seems like the Federal Government could be responsible for paying the Mongols club’s attorney fees which amount to nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Recently a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to pay $253,206 to ACLU attorney Loy who worked to challenge the prosecutors’ 2008 attempt to seize the Mongols’ logo and trademark. According to Loy, “What they did was an outrageous violation of the First Amendment and an absolute abuse of forfeiture and trademark laws”.
The Federal prosecutors attempt to seize the logo and trademark name, were they justified? Or do you think they went too far?