A whistle-blower blog you should know, Public Intelligence, released a confidential FBI memo yesterday about the Vagos copyrighting their Loki patch. You can access that report here.
David Kravets, a senior staff writer for the much better known publication Wired picked up the story this morning and limped with it. You can read his take on this issue here. Depending on what and who Kim Kardashian and Mitt Romney do today, you may hear more about this story. And, if you do it is likely that much of what you hear will be a cloud of bull feathers. This account may be marginally more informative.
The FBI Report
About a year ago the wacky crime fighters at the FBI Office in Phoenix released a report that announced:
“As of 2 May 2011, the International Chapter of the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (Vagos) trademarked their ‘cuts’ – the patches which identify their OMG affiliation – in an effort to prevent law enforcement agencies from inserting undercover officers into their organization.
“The Vagos added the ® symbol to the bottom center of the large back patch as shown in photo 1. There are only about 20 of these new patches which are currently being worn by members. It is believed that the new patches will be given out to new members as they are vetted by the Vagos leadership. By doing this, the Vagos believe they will have exclusive rights to the Vagos patch and no one, including undercover officers, would be able to wear the patch without the consent of the International Vagos OMG leadership.
“Research within the United States Patent and Trademark Office was conducted which indicated the Vagos International Motorcycle Club Corporation California, 780 N. Diamond Bar Blvd., #B12, Diamond Bar California, 91765, filed to make the Vagos name and symbol a registered trademark on July 2, 2010, Serial Number 85076951. Changes and requests by the Vagos Corporation were submitted as recently as May 2, 2011 to the Patent and Trademark Office.”
Loving Big Brother
The report goes on to claim the report is: “Law Enforcement Sensitive: This information is the property of the FBI and may be distributed to state, tribal, or local government law enforcement officials with a need-to-know. Further distribution without FBI authorization is prohibited. Precautions should be taken to ensure this information is stored and/or destroyed in a manner that precludes unauthorized access.”
And, concludes, “In the future, any undercover law enforcement officer who is wearing Vagos cuts without the ® may be placing themselves in danger.”
The most interesting passage in the document is titled “distribution.” It may help to illustrate to journalists, civil liberties lawyers and other naives the extent to which Thomas Jefferson’s “last, best hope for mankind” has become an Orwellian police state. Although the general public has no need to know about this document the following intelligence gathering agencies do: “Deputy Assistant Director, Directorate of Intelligence Analysis Branch; Production Services Unit, Directorate of Intelligence Criminal Investigative Division; FBI Intranet; FBI Albuquerque; FBI Las Vegas; FBI Los Angeles; FBI San Diego; FBI Sacramento; FBI Salt Lake City; FBI Portland; Law Enforcement Online; New Mexico Fusion Center; Arizona Fusion Center; Nevada Fusion Center; Oregon Fusion Center; Colorado Fusion Center; Utah Fusion Center; San Diego Fusion Center; Los Angeles Fusion Center.”
Notes On David Kravets
The Vagos haven’t released their own memo to explain why they added the trademark “R” to their patch. When they want everyone to know they probably will. However there are a couple of obvious errors in Kravets exegesis of the memo that should be corrected.
The Vagos have always owned, now own and will forever own their logo and their name. Both are marks that are classified as “collective membership marks.” The Christian cross, the Masonic compass and the “marks” of every other motorcycle club in the United States belong exclusively to those groups as long as those groups exist and their members display those symbols.
A “trademark” does not establish ownership of a particular symbol or name. A trademark is a “legal notice” in which a Company or enterprise claims the exclusive right to a particular set of symbols – as the Boy Scouts of America have trademarked all their merit badges and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation has claimed and defended its exclusive rights to use numerous marks associated with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in commerce.
Kravets concludes his essay with the statement: “Unfortunately for the Vagos, the FBI isn’t going to blink at a little trademark infringement – just like an undercover cop isn’t going to say he’s a narc if you asked him – as a generation of stoners seemed to think.”
The obvious point Kravets misses is that by copyrighting their patch the Vagos can sue any company or organization, including the FBI, that decides to manufacture its own Vagos patches. The FBI memo from last year implies that federal and local police departments have already begun to do that.