The Hells Angels Once Sued Disney. Here's Why

The legal teams of big corporations are famously tough –– shadowy gangs of enforcers who know how to bend the rules to ensure their clients can muscle their way through even the most cut-and-dried lawsuits. However, even the lawyers at Disney surely had a brief burst of adrenaline when they received a letter one morning telling them that their employer was being sued by Hells Angels, the notorious motorcycle club/gang that became both iconic and notorious after emerging from the counterculture of 1960s America.

According to The New York Times, Hells Angels filed the complaint in relation to the then-forthcoming movie "Wild Hogs," a comedy in which a group of motorcycle-riding middle-aged men looking for adventure happen across members of the famous motorbike gang. The suit claimed that the movie featured portrayals of identifiable members of the gang, and that it employed trademarked Hells Angels logos.

"We believe the suit is without merit," said Disney spokesman David Caouette (per CNN), though the suit was only voluntarily withdrawn after Disney agreed to remove all mention of Hells Angels from the movie, which came to cinemas in 2007, starring Tim Allen and John Travolta. But this isn't the only time that the most notorious biker gang in America has decided to use the law to its advantage.

Hells Angels are more corporate than you think

They may have an outlaw image and be tough enough to live up to it — Hunter S. Thompson got on the wrong side of the gang after his book on them was published, and he described the beating he took as a result (via Ozy) — but in the 21st century the Hells Angels are business savvy. According to CNN, ​​the real name of the group is formally "The Hell's Angels Motorcycle Corp." — notice the uncharacteristic apostrophe — and nowadays you're more likely to get on the wrong side of them in the courtroom than out on the open road.

In 2013 The New York Times reported that the group which used to strike terror into the hearts of law-abiding American motorists has in recent years filed more than a dozen federal court cases in defense of their trademarks, and have targeted such big names as Amazon, Toys "R" Us, and Marvel Comics.

"​​Part of the strategy is to bring shock-and-awe cases and to shine a bright light on them in federal court and the media," claimed Hells Angels lawyer Fritz Clapp, speaking to The New York Times. "The intent is not just to punish the infringers but to educate the public that the Hells Angels marques are well guarded and not generic and that they must not be infringed upon."