Awarded Peder Sather Grant (UC Berkeley)

originally published here

About the grant

Peder Sather grant is a grant for research partnerships between Norwegian universities and University of California, Berkeley, in particularly oriented towards supporting exploratory project or projects that would lead to a larger joint research application in the future. The grant is awarded for one year.

We have been awarded 25000USD which will cover research trips, personal research related expenses, archival visits, and a workshop at UC Berkeley in mid-September and a final conference at the University of Oslo in mid-March with the team members and invited speakers. The project will result in a special journal issue and hopefully further collaboration in the future. I will stay for 1,5 months at UC Berkeley and work closely with the second principle investigator, Martin Sanchez-Jankowski, a professor of sociology specializing on the sociology of gangs. Veronique Pouillard will also visit Berkeley and work together with Paul Duguid. (see below: Organisation)

The title and abstract of our project

Gangs, Brands and Intellectual Property Rights: A Comparative Study of the Transnational Business Organization of Outlaw Bikers and Luxury Brands through the Lens of their Legal Battles against Piracy

Gangs, Brands and Intellectual Property Rights is an exploratory interdisciplinary project inspired by the case of the lawsuit between Hells Angels, the infamous one-percenter motorcycle club, and the luxury fashion designer Alexander McQueen (2010), accused by HAMC of trademark infringement and dilution. While this law suit has brought the Hells Angels’ obsession with copyright protection to the attention of media worldwide, the fact is that they are not the only ‘outlaw motorcycle gang’ (OMG) actively protecting its registered trademarks. Following the role model of HAMC, other OMGs have during the past three decades registered their trademarks and set up fashion apparel and accessories labels that help legally fund their not always equally legal activities. And yet, till date, there is little academic research both on the role of OMGs within intellectual property rights history and on the socio-economic relations of OMGs to the legal system. Considering the OMGs as expanding transnational business organizations on the fringes of legal regimes, the project therefore seeks to fill in these gaps in scholarship, while comparing the global expansion OMGs and their organizational structure to that of luxury fashion brands, equally desperate to protect their ‘reputation’ in the market.


I am the principle investigator and initiator of this project. The second principle investigator from UC Berkeley is Martin Sanchez-Jankowski, a renowned professor of sociology. In addition we have two research team members, Veronique Pouillard from our department and Paul Duguid, adjunct full professor at the School of Information, UC Berkeley, who is also an expert on trademark and IPR history.

The project will enable us to develop an interdisciplinary perspective on an understudied phenomenon of the involvement of outlaw motorcycle gangs with intellectual property law. Moreover, the aim is to bring together scholars around this topic and develop a network for future more in-depth investigations.