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Will stripping the Mongols motorcycle club logo violate First Amendment rights?

A member of the Mongols motorcycle club rides through downtown Los Angeles
A member of the Mongols motorcycle club rides through downtown Los Angeles
Eric Zassenhaus/KPCC

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A Santa Ana jury ruled Friday that the L.A.-based Mongols motorcycle club would be stripped of its trademark as part of its punishment in a racketeering case.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, this trademark war has been the headliner of a decade-long fight between federal prosecutors and the L.A.-based Mongols Motorcycle Club, which has been pegged as inciting violence and drug dealing. Prosecutors are hoping that getting rid of the logo will stifle the gang’s status and stop them from selling their merchandise with the trademark. The Mongols MC was founded in Montebello in 1969, and is said to have been started by a group of men who were rejected by Hell’s Angels.

The trademark, a sunglasses-clad figure resembling Genghis Khan riding a motorcycle beneath the club’s name, is seen on leather vests and jackets of certain ranks of Mongol members, as well as the club’s merchandise. A federal judge is set next month to address whether stripping the Mongols logo will violate First Amendment rights. On AirTalk today, we debate just that: Is the motorcycle club’s trademark protected under free speech? Larry Mantle discusses with constitutional law professors in a lively debate.


Aaron Caplan, professor of law at Loyola Law School specializing in First Amendment law

Lawrence Rosenthal, former federal prosecutor and Professor of Law at Chapman University specializing in constitutional and criminal law