“God Gave Rock and Roll to You” sang Kiss in their cover of the Argent hit of the same name, but it seems that such sentiments are now expected to be conditional. The Devil’s horns sign, thrust high above the moshpit at many a rock and metal gig for a generation, could end up as the property of Kiss frontman Gene Simmons. The famously long-tongued rockstar has submitted a trade mark application at the United States Patent and Trademark Office for “a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular” in class 41, covering “entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist”.
Simmons certainly goes out of his way to commercialise every aspect of Kiss (items have included bicycle shorts, surely the greatest crime against rock Kiss have committed since they turned disco), so this application is hardly out of character.
In support of his trade mark application Simmons claims that the mark, shown above, was first used in November of 1974. He backs up his claims with a recent photo of himself throwing the horns alongside Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
The chances of this particular trade mark becoming registered would appear slimmer than the Ramones’ skinny jeans, not least because Simmons is far from the first person to use it. The sign itself can trace its roots at least as far back as Buddha. The horns have been used in a musical context since the late 60s and have appeared on albums by rock band Coven and by John Lennon on the cover of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. The sign is even used in a derogatory sense to imply cuckoldry in many Latin countries. Since under US practice the first owner of a trademark is the person who first used it in commerce, rather than the first applicant, whether a recent selfie with the ex-Nirvana skinsman is sufficient evidence for “use in commerce” has yet to be decided.