Gene Simmons Wants to Trademark a Horns Hand Sign

He's admitted the gesture is a homage to Spiderman and Dr. Strange. It's also American Sign Language for "I love you."


Gabriel Hardman/Marvel & Sezzles/flickr

Kiss bassist Gene Simmons is trying to trademark the hand sign made by holding the thumb, index finger, and pinky up while holding the middle finger and ring finger down, sometimes known as the Sign of the Devil. His application illustrates how artists often abuse intellectual property privileges, using them not just to secure their own work but to try to curb the work of others.

The gesture that Simmons is claiming is also American Sign Language for "I love you." In a music context, a slightly different version of the gesture—with the thumb holding the middle and ring fingers down—was popularized by Black Sabbath's Ronnie James Dio before Simmons adopted it. (According to Variety, Dio said in the 1990s that he picked up the gesture from his Italian grandmother, who used it when someone would give her or her grandchild the "evil eye.") The thumb-down version of the gesture is also used by fans of the University of Texas at Austin.

Simmons argues that his gesture is substantively different. "What I started [before Dio] involved the thumb outstretched," he said in the '90s, according to Variety. "Check our first poster, in 1974. I started doing it because of comic book artist Steve Ditko, who created both Spiderman and Dr. Strange, who both used the same hand sign. Spiderman used it upside down when he shot out webbing, and Dr. Strange used it as a magic incantation. I was paying homage." Simmons said that it wasn't until later that he learned the symbol was ASL for "I love you."

Simmons' acknowledgement that his gesture was borrowed from other pieces of intellectual property, namely Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, ought to be enough to to reject his application—and should've been enough to convince him not to apply in the first place.

Intellectual property attorney Victor Sapphire told Variety that Simmons would have a tough time defending his application because the gesture would have to be associated with a "single source of entertainment services." That isn't the case for this gesture, which has many uses.

"While there certainly may be a route to registration for this mark, this question may ultimately render the mark unenforceable, in which case the process of applying for registration will appear to have functioned as either another of Mr. Simmons' brilliant publicity-generating moves, a vanity exercise, or perhaps a bit of both," Sapphire said.

Simmons' application ought to spark a conversation on the need for IP and trademark reform. Complex laws, often promoted by vested interests, do more to thwart the progress of arts than promote them. Spider-Man and Dr. Strange could tell you a bit about that, too: Marvel shares a trademark on the term "superhero" and has tried to use it to suppress other comics work.

Bonus video: "How Should Libertarians Think About Intellectual Property?"

NEXT: Nevada Governor's Veto Won't Be The End of Medicaid-for-all Proposals

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Just think of intellectual property as “property” and put a reasonable time limit on copyright duration.

  2. Christ, what an asshole.

  3. It’s also been widely used at the University of Texas (Austin) with the phrase “Hook ’em Horns!”

    1. Nobody gives a shit about the pissant program.

  4. Yo Gene, fuck you?

  5. You have create something to receive a trademark.

    We all know that you did not create that.

  6. I have a public domain hand gesture to share with Mr. Simmons.

  7. Looks like he’s turned into a boring old fart yelling get off MY lawn.

    1. He’s always been like that, and a giant asshole.

  8. Doesn’t the Devil already have this trademark?

  9. Simmons’ acknowledgement that his gesture was borrowed from other pieces of intellectual property, namely Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, ought to be enough to to reject his application…

    One would think. Simmons will have to find a different way to remain relevant. He can always sue the estate of actress Jean Simmons, who was born 20 years before him.

    1. Yeah, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that he even considered this–Simmons is such a money-grubber that he’d have sued Michael Jordan for trademark infringement on sticking his tongue out if he thought he could get away with it.

      I saw a few episodes of his reality show several years ago, and it was mind-boggling how he was always looking for an angle that would get him a few extra dollars.

      1. He is a Jew.

  10. Huh, I always thought that hand gesture was Italian Sign Language for “I love your wife. Repeatedly. While you’re gone to work.”

  11. I have a public domain gesture for Simmons…

  12. I didn’t need another reason to think KISS and Gene Simmons suck giant deformed balls, but there you have it.

    1. I take it you do not like to rock and roll all night and party every day?

  13. Here’s a free mental image that i hope y’all will enjoy: Gene Simmons, in full costume, performing violent analingus on a Gene Simmons impersonator, also in full costume. Peter Criss is watching because he likes to watch.

    Trademark that, Chaim Witz.

  14. holding the thumb, index finger, and pinky up while holding the middle finger and ring finger down

    Personally, I find the up/down binary assumption that you cis-mobile shitlords keep making to be offensive

  15. Trademarks are government-enforced monopolies on something. They’re pretty anti-Free Speech.

  16. I can’t believe no one has said the obvious: the “devil horns” weren’t invented by Gene Simmons. They weren’t even introduced to metal/hard rock by Gene Simmons.

    The devil horns were introduced to rock and roll by Ronnie James Dio.

    So, not only does Gene Simmons not deserve to own them; he ripped them off from Ronnie James Dio.

    Dio picked them up from his grandmother–they were an old European way to ward off the evil eye.

    1. It literally says that in the article.

    2. It literally says that in the article.

  17. According to Ayn Rand, claims of IP are inviolate property. Because “property” is in the name. It’s property, therefore above reproach. Damn you hippy libertarians for trying to destroy civilization!!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.