Outlaw motorcycle gang Hells Angels sues tech start-up
for IP breach
Outlaw bikies Hell Angels take legal
action over trademarks.
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Outlaw motorcycle gang Hells Angels Australia
has taken legal action in the Federal Court against tech
start-up Redbubble for breach of its intellectual property,
eschewing the club's more "traditional" out-of-court dispute
The "1 per center" bikie group, which in court
documents refers to itself as "motorcycle enthusiasts", is
battling the company that bills itself as an "online art
community" after finding several products allegedly using the
clubs' trademarks available for sale on Redbubble's website.
According to its Australian Federal Court
filing, upon searching "Hells Angels" and "Bikies" on the
website, the club alleges it found a number of items bearing its
trademarks, including unisex Hells Angel t-shirts, Hells Angels
Math club t-shirts and hoodies, Hells Angel Movie t-shirt and
hoodies and a poster showing a small girl sitting with a Hells
The trademarks of the Hells Angels have been
used by the gang itself on a host of products from painted emu
eggs to more traditional bikie accessories like belt buckles and
The Hells Angels has provided the Federal
Court with a list of events where the club has used its
trademarks, including the Brisbane chapter's An evening with the
Queensland Orchestra at City Hall, as part of the theme
night Pedal to the Metal.
Redbubble chief executive Martin Hosking said
the allegedly offending material had been removed from the site.
Hells Angels accepts this, but claims Redbubble made money off
the sales and is seeking compensation, according to court
"We have acted in a co-operative manner with
the Hells Angels, as we do with other rights owners, and so we
were surprised by their decision to file a legal claim," Mr
"We are confident that Redbubble will not be
held in any way liable for any allegedly infringing conduct."
Earlier this year, Redbubble ran into trouble
with the federal government for selling Anzac-themed clothing,
including T-shirts that say: "Anzac Kin", "Anzac Descendant" and
"Thank you Anzacs. Lest we forget April 25".
Hells Angels is perhaps better known for its
appearances at Magistrates Courts for alleged violent acts and
association with the drug trade – so much so that in 2013 the
group was declared a criminal organisation by the Queensland
However, Hells Angels has a host of trademarks
registered with Australian authorities, including use of the
words Hells Angels.
Also registered is the Hells Angels' famed
"death head" (3/4 view) which was originally designed in 1954
for the club's membership cards by an artist "known only as
Sundown", according to court filings.
The design was updated in 1983 by a member of
the clubs' San Francisco chapter, "Fuki", and updated again in
1994 by Australian Scott Eaton.
All three of these designs are registered to
the Hells Angels in Australia, with the club having explicit
permission from its American brethren to use the designs.
Apart from his artistic endeavours, Mr Eaton
has also garnered some press after being called to give evidence
at the coronial inquest into the death of Levi Griffiths in
A spokeswoman for Hells Angel's legal team
said only club members were allowed to wear the death head
"It has a heavily spiritual and emotional
connection to them as part of a brotherhood where the death head
is the representation of belonging," she said.
Other items, such as a the painted emu eggs,
t-shirts, carvings and mugs were sold by the various chapters of
the club as fundraising activities to "supporters" of the
Hells Angel's intellectual property lawyer
Dimitrious Eliats said he and his client had tried to mediate
the dispute with Redbubble ahead of filing in the Federal Court
and still hoped the matter could be settled, adding "we don't
want to force anyone or have them fall on their sword or