Naperville Business Lawyer Discusses Legendary Rocker’s Trademark Bid

trademark, Naperville business law attorneyWhen you develop a logo, image, or slogan that becomes closely associated with your brand, it is usually a wise move to seek trademark protection to ensure that no other company can appropriate your creation without your consent. On occasion, however, an individual or entity will pursue a trademark over an image, word, or phrase in what seems to be an obvious attempt to create a financial windfall. For example, did you know that the NFL’s New England Patriots filed a petition in 2008 to trademark “19-0” as a reference to a perfect season just weeks before they lost in that year’s Super Bowl leaving the team at a less desirable 18-1 record?

It seems that a similar scenario could be set to play out as new outlets are reporting that one of the most recognizable names in the music industry has filed for a trademark for a physical gesture used by countless rockers and performers around the world. As a business law attorney, I understand the need for trademark protections in the right situations, but I realize that some cases can certainly leave one scratching his or her head.

An Interesting Filing

As frontman of the legendary rock band KISS, Gene Simmons is no stranger to controversy. He is known for being brash, outspoken, and unfiltered on a wide variety of topics using many different platforms to remain relevant. In recent days, Simmons filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to trademark “a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular.” Simmons has long used the gesture on stage and in photos, but so have many musicians and stage performers.

The gesture—sometimes referred to as “the horns” or “the Devil’s horns”—is a staple in the rock and heavy metal genres. Some performers, such as Ozzy Osbourne, traditionally tuck the thumb into the hand, while others, like Simmons, leave the thumb perpendicular.

A Symbol With Many Meanings

The gesture that Simmons is attempting to trademark is one that nearly everyone has used before—or at least most have seen it used. The version described in the application is identical to the American Sign Language sign for “I love you.” In comic books and on movie screens, Spiderman turns the gesture upside down to sling webs at criminals. Fans of the University of Texas Longhorns use the thumbless version as the “Hook ‘Em Horns” symbol of their loyalty to the school.

Of these, perhaps only the Spiderman example might be considered problematic if Simmons is successful in his bid to claim ownership of the gesture. His application expresses his belief that no other entity has the right to use the gesture commercially, including in entertainment by musical artists on stage. Simmons says he was the first to use it in commerce in November of 1974, despite the fact that John Lennon used it in a photo on the cover of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby” single in 1966.

The application is currently in pending status, and the USPTO expects to review the claim in the next few months.

Help With Trademark Applications

While you are probably not likely to request trademark protection for a hand gesture, other images associated with your brand should be protected. Contact an experienced Naperville business law attorney to discuss your options. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation today.



Los Angeles Times

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Washington Post