Less than two weeks after KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons filed an application for a trademark on the so-called "devil's horns" hand gesture, he appears to have had a change of heart. On June 20, Simmons expressly abandoned the application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
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."
The KISS bassist/vocalist 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 believes "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."
Simmons's version of the 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.
Most music fans slammed Simmons for the trademark request, saying the symbol has become ubiquitous and means different things to different people.
Trademark attorney Michael Cohen with Cohen IP Law Group in Beverly Hills, who deals with trademark, patent and copyright infringement cases, told the Los Angeles Times that it would have been very difficult for Simmons's application to be approved because the gesture has become "genericized."
In issue 196 of Classic Rock magazine, Simmons revealed where he got the idea for the gesture, explaining it was inspired by Spider-man and the way he shoots webs from his wrists.
Simmons told Classic Rock: "We laid down the templates. When you see bands rocking out in sync, that's us. When you see bands putting up that two-fingered devil horn salute, that started with KISS."
When asked if it was Ronnie James Dio who actually started it, Simmons replied: "Well, I've heard Ronnie say that to my face and I said, 'God bless you.' I mean him no ill will, but I think he's wrong. Mine came from Spider-man doing his hand signal, as a homage to him. If you see me in photos, I'm sticking out my thumb. That's the sign in sign language which means 'I love you.'"
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."