LA-Based Wildfox Couture Pulls Goods After Hells Angels Lawsuit
Not many people want to test the wrath of the Hells Angels, particularly when they take you to court.
So when Wildfox Couture in Los Angeles got slapped with a lawsuit recently for using the trademarked words quot;Hells Angelquot; on its T-shirts, the company swiftly yanked the offending items from its website. Other shopping websites followed Wildfox’s lead.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 23 in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., on behalf of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corp., charged Wildfox with trademark infringement for a T-shirt that said, quot;My boyfriend is a Hells Angel.quot; On the shirt’s back were angel wings.
The $64 T-shirt, made of 100 percent cotton with a distressed scoop neckline and sleeves, was also being sold on Shopbop.com, owned by Amazon.com, and other websites, including Nasty Gal Inc. and JOL Style Inc., also named in the complaint.
Fritz Clapp, an attorney who has been representing the Hells Angels on trademark issues since 1992, doesn’t believe the matter will ever go to court. He hasn’t heard anything from Wildfox Couture, the 4-year-old clothing company that produced the T-shirt. But he has heard from Amazon.com’s attorneys, who assured him they were taking care of the problem.
Kristom Parson, who works with Wildfox’s public relations and marketing department, said she didn’t want to talk about the issue.
But Clapp did. quot;I have every confidence that Amazon’s counsel will wrap this thing up,quot; said the attorney from his temporary Phoenix residence—a 40-foot van with a hoist in the back for his motorcycle. quot;It is unlikely we are actually going to have to press hard on the small defendants.quot;
Clapp said the Hells Angels, who are quot;very, very prickly about the use of their marks,quot; got wind of the Wildfox T-shirt when a member’s wife saw it on a website. About five days later, Clapp was filing the lawsuit.
Filing these kinds of complaints isn’t a regular routine for Clapp, but it does happen. He said that in the 19 years he has represented the Hells Angels, he has probably taken legal steps to address trademark rights only seven times.
Last year, Clapp was on the trademark trail, going after the Alexander McQueen label, owned by the Gucci Group. He filed a lawsuit against the McQueen label, Saks Fifth Avenue and Zappos.com for infringing on the Hells Angels’ intellectual-property rights for various items made with Hells Angels logos.
Alexander McQueen had handbags, jewelry and clothing bearing the Hells Angels skull-and-wings death-head design, court documents said.
And the lawsuit noted that Saks Fifth Avenue and Zappos.com were selling Alexander McQueen items with names such as the quot;Hells Angels jacquard box dressquot; and the quot;Hells Angels four-finger ring.quot;
The Alexander McQueen case was settled, Clapp said, after Saks aggressively recalled the McQueen items.
The first lawsuit Clapp filed for the Hells Angels was against Marvel Comics, which ended up renaming its Hells Angels comic book quot;Dark Angel.quot; Then there was a lawsuit in 2006 against Walt Disney Co. over the early script for the movie quot;Wild Hogs,quot; where the principal characters were identified as members of the Hells Angels club and wore the Hells Angels trademarked logo, Clapp said.
Other lawsuits were filed against Headgear Inc., whose Blac Label brand of T-shirts had the Hells Angels logo printed on them, and Moviegoods, which reproduced and distributed a quot;Hells Angels Foreverquot; poster.
Los Angeles patent and trademark attorney Michael Cohen said apparel companies need to research phrases and trade names before producing a product that could end up being recalled. quot;Wildfox should have done their due diligence,quot; he said. quot;Hells Angels is a recognized brand, and they have several registered U.S. trademark rights.quot; —Deborah Belgum