It’s 1974. Kiss is on their second tour. Stadiums are packed. The bass is cranked up and guitars are being destroyed in the midst of a firey chaos that soon came to symbolize hard rock. And, in the middle of it all, Gene Simmons flashing the devil horns hand signs. Today, 43 years later, the Kiss member is seeking to patent the rock sign.
Eight years before Gene waved the rock sign in the air, John Lennon rocked the devil horns in The Beatles single cover Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby.
When the news spread, the Rock Industry and fans were in an outrage to hear Simmons wanted to patent the rock sign that had come to symbolize the lifestyle. The news over flowed with criticism and jokes. Finally, on June 20th, Gene Simmons abandoned the request at the United States Patent and Trademarks Office.
Wendy Dio, the wife of Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath’s vocalist), harshly criticized Gene Simmons’ actions. While Wendy was calling the request laughable, Nikki Six, bassist and songwriter for Mötley Crüe, was joking that he was going to trademark the middle finger hand gesture.
Trademark and Patent attorneys were consulted on the subject. Ryan Vacca, who is a Law Professor at the University of New Hampshire, claimed that even if for some bizarre reason the USPTO had approved the request, enforcing it would be close to impossible. But, the patent would have never been approved, or rather it would have been horribly unlikely, because Simmons would not only have needed to prove that he created the symbol, but to prove that its use would lead consumers to automatically connect the gesture to him as an artist.
The CEO and President of the advertising agency Mekanism, Jason Harris, claims that it was all clearly a publicity stunt, which is something KISS knows how to do perfectly well.
In the end, patent and trademark law is complicated. Getting a request approved, in most countries in the world, is complicated and requires legal proof and basis. This is why it is important to protect the content you have so diligently made, created and own the rights to.
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