Free Speech

Once Again, the Mongols Motorcycle Club Can Legally Keep Its Patch

The federal attempt to take the patch uniquely combines free speech violations and asset forfeiture.


Meth dealing. Money laundering. Murder.

These are just a few of the crimes for which members of the Southern California-based Mongols Motorcycle Club have been arrested. But regardless of the crimes they stand accused of committing while wearing the Mongols patch, Central District of California Court Judge David O. Carter recently thwarted yet another attempt by federal law enforcers to confiscate the bike club's brand.

During a sentencing hearing on Friday for racketeering charges against the entirety of the Mongol Nation, Carter ordered the club to pay a fine of $500,000 and serve five years probation. When prosecutors also asked Carter to forfeit the Mongols' trademark for their patch, which bears a figure on a motorcycle resembling Genghis Khan, Carter ruled against the request.

The feds have been after the Mongol patch for years, arguing that displaying the logo is as dangerous as the crimes committed by the club members. As previously reported at Reason, the long legal fight brings together free speech violations, asset forfeiture, and intellectual property. When prosecutors received pretrial authority to go after the patch in 2008, law enforcement confiscated jackets and other items bearing the imagery despite not filing charges for a crime.

Prosecutors briefly enjoyed a win when a California jury decided in January that they could take the trademarked patch away from the group. This decision was eventually overturned by Carter in February. He concluded that the seizure of the trademark violated the First Amendment right to free expression and the Eighth Amendment protection from excessive punishment.