Gene Simmons says that he withdrew his application to trademark the so-called “devil’s horns” hand gesture because he “didn’t think it was worth it.”
The KISS bassist/vocalist expressly abandoned the application in late June — less than two weeks after filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Most music fans slammed Simmons for the trademark request, saying the symbol has become ubiquitous and means different things to different people.
During an appearance on the “Talk Is Jericho” podcast, Simmons said that his version of the hand gesture is actually “I love you” in American Sign Language, with the thumb extended, rather than the thumb holding two middle fingers close to the palm as popularized by Ronnie James Dio and used by everyone from rock stars to chefs as a salute of musical inclusiveness and triumph since the ’70s.
“When [KISS] first started doing photos in 1973, in the last century, I was doing an homage,” he explained. “I didn’t know what to do with my hands… ’cause I had wings [as part of my costume] and I wanted to show the wings. So you spread your arms, kind of like a Christ-like pose, but I didn’t know what to do with my fingers. So I did what an artist named Steve Ditko did with Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, both of whom did the hand signal. So when Spider-Man shot the webbing, he would do the two middle fingers. And the eternal Vishanti doing the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, that’s Doctor Strange. So I was just giving an homage to Steve Ditko, and it caught on. And so when we were playing live, I wanted to wave back at the fans who were just, like, ‘Wow, you guys are kind of hot shit,’ but I’m holding the pick in my hand. So I’m trying to hold up both my fingers. And so they all started to do that. To this day, whether you’re going to a soccer match in Ukraine or in Africa, or wherever, the fans may not even think about Gene Simmons, but they’ll do a version of those outstretched fingers and stick their tongue out without knowing why. It’s become the thing. I don’t care if you’re Rihanna or Chubby Checker, everybody does that stuff, although they may not realize it started with the powerful and attractive Gene Simmons.”
In his original request, which was filed on June 9, Simmons described the sign as consisting “of a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular.” He paid $275, seeking to use the hand signal symbol for “Entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist.”
Gene claimed the gesture was first used in commerce on November 14, 1974, which corresponded to KISS‘s “Hotter Than Hell” tour. He wrote in his signed declaration that he believed “no other person, firm, corporation or association has the right to use said mark in commerce, either in the identical form or in such near resemblance.”
Asked why he eventually decided to withdraw his application to trademark the gesture, Simmons told “Talk Is Jericho”: “The uneducated, the uninformed and the otherwise passionate got so hot under the collar that I just didn’t think it was worth it.
He continued: “People from the peanut gallery, and I love ’em… But the idea that everybody’s opinion is worth the same as everybody else is… I don’t wanna say ‘bullshit,’ but it’s uninformed. You know, your car breaks down and some guy walks up and says, ‘Here’s what’s wrong with it.’ That’s one opinion. The other guy that walks over is a mechanic who works on cars all the time. Both those opinions are not equal. One is more important because it’s based on resume and qualification, and the other one is based on popcorn farts — he knows nothing. Well, your opinion is worth nothing, ’cause it’s based on nothing and no experience. Mostly people that have opinions express them just because they have no qualification or resume.
“So, it just wasn’t important enough for me to go do that, ’cause everybody’s doing my hand gesture anyway — whether it’s the Dalai Lama or the Pope. I win.”
Simmons added: “But, truly, when somebody criticizes you or whatever, take a moment to think about, ‘Gee, I wonder what they’ve done.’ In other words, it’s not what somebody says — who’s saying it? If I get criticized as a bad person, as an example, by somebody standing next to me, that’s not the same as the Pope or my rabbi or somebody in a ethical position of power. I might still object, but that’s a qualified opinion.”
Copyright lawyer Ronald Abrams told Forbes that it’s unlikely Simmons would have succeeded in his attempt to trademark the “devil’s horns” symbol, explaining that such hand gestures can’t be trademarked unless they are part of a logo. Trademark attorney Michael Cohen with Cohen IP Law Group in Beverly Hills, who deals with trademark, patent and copyright infringement cases, concurred, telling the Los Angeles Times that it would have been very difficult for Simmons‘s application to be approved because the gesture has become “genericized.”
Gene‘s KISS bandmate Paul Stanley recently said that he had no idea why Simmons attempted to trademark the hand gesture, telling the Loudwire Podcast: “Well, you know, Gene elicits some very strong reactions from people. And what he does he does for the reasons that only he knows. So I can’t really say that I have really any thought about it. It was really something that he wanted to pursue, and the reaction was how people felt about it. So I don’t know why he pulled it, and I don’t know why he started it. I really have no… I haven’t asked him.”
During an episode of her show “The Talk”, Sharon Osbourne slammed Simmons for the trademark request, accusing the rocker of “trying to make money from posters and t-shirts.” She said: “He’s crazy. He’s trying to get money from the merch where you see this [gesture] on merch, but actually this [symbol], in Italian, which has been going for hundreds of years, means ‘the devil.’ That’s what it means. And so kids at concerts have been doing it for years and years and years. And in ’74? Where were you in the ’60s when they were doing it, kid, because they’ve been doing it forever.”
Ronnie James Dio‘s widow Wendy also criticized Simmons for attempting to trademark the hand sign. She told TheWrap: “To try to make money off of something like this is disgusting. It belongs to everyone — it doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s a public domain, it shouldn’t be trademarked.”
Photo credit: Mark Weiss