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A Comparative Study of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs and Luxury Brands

The project aims at understanding the ways in which outlaw motorcycle clubs use the law and legal businesses to further their interests and acquire power across the spaces of legality and illegality.

About the project

In 2010, Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, the most famous and most powerful outlaw motorcycle club in the world, operating in more than fifty countries across the world, sued Alexander McQueen, the iconic fashion designer, for trademark infringement.

This case brought to light the Hells Angels obsession with protection of their intellectual property, an obsession that has since the 70s slowly spread across the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs at large.

The fact that the most notorious and self-proclaimed outlaws take recourse to the very law they attempt to disregard raises questions about the nature of the encounters across the legal and illegal as well as of the strategic use of legal protection afforded by, for instance, the trademark law.

The project, Gangs, Brands and Intellectual Property Rights: Interdisciplinary Comparative Study of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs and Luxury Brands, aims at understanding the ways in which outlaw motorcycle clubs use the law and legal businesses to further their interests and acquire power across the spaces of legality and illegality.

The project will specifically focus on outlaw motorcycle clubs in central Europe (Austria, Czech republic and parts of Germany) and will utilize ethnographic and historical research, combined with media and legal analysis.

Objectives

The primary objective is to investigate the expanding transnational network of the international outlaw motorcycle clubs', considered as a transnational business organization involved in both legal and illegal activities, in particular focusing on international outlaw motorcycle clubs' chapters in central Europe (Austria, the Czech republic, Bavaria - Germany).

The primary focus is the intersection of international outlaw motorcycle clubs' legal businesses and protection afforded by international IPR and trademark laws from which the organized groups benefit both in legal and illegal markets.

The project focuses on the parallel structures of the legal and illegal, the strategies of market capture employed by outlaw motorcycle clubs, and their marketing strategies and PR attempts at changing the clubs' public image.

The secondary objective is to compare these strategies and organizational structures of international outlaw motorcycle clubs with those of luxury brands that systematically use the IPR law to protect their markets and brand power.

Cooperation

University of Vienna.

Duration

01.08.2016-31.07.2019.

Financing

Financed by the Norwegian Research Council.

Published Apr. 12, 2018 3:27 PM - Last modified May 3, 2019 1:45 PM