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Gene Simmons Abandons Attempt to Trademark ‘Devil Horns’

Variety logo Variety 6/22/2017 Katherine Turman
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Gene Simmons has withdrawn his application to trademark the hand gesture commonly known as the “devil horns” or “metal horns,” less than two weeks after he filed it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, according to Forbes.

The version of the hand gesture that Simmons attempted to trademark actually means “I love you” in American Sign Language, with the thumb extended. The version with the thumb holding two middle fingers close to the palm was popularized by legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio and used by everyone from rock stars to chefs as a salute of musical inclusiveness and triumph since the ‘70s.

While Simmons’ attorney had not responded to Variety’s request for comment and confirmation at press time, multiple legal experts considered his bid a very long shot, and he received no small amount of written abuse from fellow musicians, fans and others.

Los Angeles-based intellectual property attorney Victor Sapphire told Variety that demonstrating that the mark acts as an identifier of a single source of entertainment services will pose a significant challenge to its viability. “Even if consumers don’t think of Gene Simmons in particular, do they associate the gesture with a single source of entertainment services in the nature of live performances and personal appearances?” posited Sapphire. “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.”

In the 1990s, Dio (who passed away in 2010) told Variety contributor Katherine Turman: “Because I’ve been lucky enough to have done it so much, it’s been more equated with me than anyone else,” adding, “although Gene Simmons will tell you he invented it — but then again, Gene invented breathing and shoes.”

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