Lani Bajracharya

Highway to Hell: Hells Angels bikies sue Redbubble for IP infringement

Lani Bajracharya

14 October 2015

Trade marks

The Hells Angels are no stranger to the Courts. In fact, the motorcycle gang and its members have obtained a certain level of notoriety as a result of their past run-ins with the law.

 

However, in a recent twist of events, Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd (Hells Angels Australia) have turned the tables (figuratively, of course) by commencing Federal Court proceedings against Redbubble Pty Ltd (Redbubble), this time for intellectual property infringement. [1]

 

For those not familiar with Redbubble, the company operates a site which provides an online community and marketplace where consumers can purchase a variety of printed products based on the artwork submitted by its users.

 

According to reports, the bikie gang has alleged that the online operator has misused its trade marks by marketing and selling a number of t-shirts, hoodies and posters on its website ┬ábearing the distinctive Hells Angels’ trade marked insignia, including the gang’s well-known “death head”.[2]

 

The Hells Angels have a number of trade marks registered in Australia, which are used on their own products for members, some of which can be seen below (Australian Trade Mark Nos. 526529, 526530 and 723463 as identified on the IP Australia trade marks register):

 

 

While Hells Angels Australia appear to concede that Redbubble has removed the allegedly unauthorised material from its web site, the motorcycle group reportedly continues to seek compensation in relation to the sales made by Redbubble prior to the removal.[3]

 

In addition to this, Hells Angels Australia representatives have claimed that Redbubble’s conduct has caused “anger, hurt feelings and personal distress” by allowing non-members of the club to wear indicia reserved for its members,[4] particularly where the death head trade mark “has a heavily spiritual and emotional connection to them as part of a brotherhood”.[5]

 

The matter was brought before the Federal Court in Brisbane on 13 October 2015 for a scheduling conference where Justice Edelman directed that a mediation occur by 15 January 2016.

 

We don’t know about you but we’ll be following this one with keen interest. Bikies suing for intellectual property infringement? Now that’s a hell of a story.

 

 


[1] Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation (Australia) Pty Ltd ACN 123 059 745 v Redbubble Pty Ltd ACN 119 200 592 & Anor (Federal Court Proceedings No QUD902/2015). Based on recent reports it appears that the claim is for copyright and trade mark infringement.

[2] Sarah Danckert and Chris Vedelago, ‘Outlaw motorcycle gang Hells Angels sues tech start-up for IP breach’, The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 9 October 2015 < http://www.smh.com.au/business/retail/outlaw-motorcycle-gang-hells-angels-sues-tech-startup-for-ip-breach-20151009-gk5fmc.html>; Business First, ‘Hells Angels sue Red Bubble’, Business First Magazine (online), 10 October 2015 < http://www.businessfirstmagazine.com.au/hells-angels-redbubble/11591>; Vanda Carson, ‘Hells Angels sue hipster retailers for using bikie logo’, The Courier-Mail (online), 12 October 2015 <http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/hells-angels-sue-hipster-retailers-for-using-bikie-logo/story-fnn8dlfs-1227565854358>.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vanda Carson, Above n2.

[5] Sarah Danckert and Chris Vedelago, Above n2.