Mongols Motorcycle Logo Dispute Story Needs Clarification

Our legal director, David Blair-Loy, responds to an article in today’s Los Angeles Times that neglected to mention significant details in an important First Amendment/trademark case of ours. Following is his letter to the editor setting the facts straight.

To the Editor:
Your story (“Feds want to bar Mongols biker gang from using its trademarked logo”) neglects to acknowledge the important fact that two judges found the government broke the law by seeking to confiscate the logo.

I represent the plaintiff in a parallel case where the late Judge Florence-Marie Cooper and Judge David O. Carter rejected the false premise that Ruben Cavazos “trademarked the Mongol logo.” Persons acquire trademarks by using them first, and an organization’s member cannot own the organization’s logo. The government admits the club first used the current logo in 1970, long before Cavazos joined the club. Therefore, it is legally impossible that Cavazos ever owned the logo, and the government cannot forfeit property that never belonged to Cavazos.

Both judges held the government abused its forfeiture power and violated the First Amendment by confiscating items bearing the logo from persons not charged with any crime. Before her untimely death, Judge Cooper denied the government’s request to forfeit the logo. The government is still disregarding core principles of forfeiture, trademark and First Amendment law. Your story reports none of these developments. One expects better from a newspaper protected by the same First Amendment the government has flagrantly violated.

David Blair-Loy
Legal Director
ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties