The Hells Angels Are Surprisingly Litigious

Looks like the Hells Angels have figured out that the pen is mightier than the crowbar.

According to the New York Times, despite the motorcycle gang's outlaw image, the Angels have been taking full advantage of the laws they once swore to break, filing more than a dozen federal trademark infringement claims in the last seven years.

And they'll take on anyone — from Toys "R" Us to Alexander McQueen to a teenage girl selling patches on eBay. But as they get into the civil suits, they're trying to do it civilly.

“We stabbed and slabbed people left and right in the day, but that way is less common now,” Richard Mora, AKA Chico, a Phoenix chapter Hells Angels member told the Times.

Instead, the group has increasingly turned to marketing the Hells Angels brand and the group's signature Death Head patch, along with 16 other trademarked insignias.

According to the Times, most of the lawsuits are settled amiably, "extracting concessions from the accused parties by getting them to stop using the trademarks, destroy and recall merchandise and, in a few instances, pay some damages."

Some sued by the Hells Angels attorney, Fritz Clapp (who refers to himself as the "Lawyer from Hell") say they were initially worried for their safety due to the group's reputation.

And while authorities say the group — classified as a criminal organization by the State Department — is still a hotbed of criminal activity involving drugs, firearms, prostitution, arson, robbery, extortion, and money laundering (among other charges), litigants say the civil side has been, well, civil.

Not to say that they wouldn't resort to those Altamont ways should the legal process fail them. In a deposition, the group's leader, 75-year-old Sonny Barger testified that he'd immediately challenge anyone wearing the Hells Angels "81" (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, A the first).

He said if he encountered someone wearing clothing with an unofficial 81, he would wrest it from the person on the spot. “I wouldn’t ask them, I’d take it.”

Later in the deposition, he said: “I would say, ‘Why do you have that?’ and he would probably say, ‘I support 81.’ And I would say, ‘That isn’t an 81 shirt.’

“And then I would say, ‘Look, we can do this two ways. You can give me the shirt and I’ll give you a legitimate one.’ Or if the guy says, ‘Hey, none of your business where I got it,’ ” Mr. Barger continued, “I’d beat him up and take it.”

[image via Getty]