Rock ’em? Gene Simmons wants to trademark familiar-looking hand sign

Posted June 15th, 2017


Watch that thumb placement carefully, Longhorns nation. If Gene Simmons’ plan succeeds, you might be infringing on his trademark.

The Kiss frontman filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Friday that seeks to trademark the “rock on” hand gesture. Simmons’ application claims that the sign — which “consists of a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular” — was first used in commerce Nov. 14, 1974. The intended use of the gesture is for live performances and personal appearances by a musical artist, according to the application, which one would assume refers to Simmons himself.

According to the trademark office’s website, the application is currently awaiting review and will be assigned to an examining attorney approximately 3 months from the filing date.


So, we know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t that look kind of like the Hook ’em Horns hand sign? Yes and no. The discerning Longhorn, of course, will note that the Hook ’em sign differs from Simmons’ “rock on” in thumb placement. Whereas Dr. Love’s trademark application specifically mentions a perpendicular thumb, the proper expression of burnt orange pride includes a thumb folded over the palm, tucked on top of the folded middle and ring fingers.

University of Texas’ #39, Brian Robinson holds two roses as he gives the “Hook Em Horns” sign during celebration of the Longhorns 70-3 victory over the University of Colorado in the Big 12 Championship held at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Saturday, December 4, 2005. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Even if Simmons’ application is successful, it’s hard to imagine any successful challenges that the Hook ’em sign infringes upon the international sign for rock. For one thing, UT’s pride symbol definitely predates the rock on hand sign — it was invented in 1955. For another, the university famously protects its trademarks, and according to the Office of Brand, Trademarks and Licensing, the hand symbol definitely falls under that umbrella.

RELATED: A brief history of University of Texas icons

Does the Demon stand a chance of claiming his hand sign? As the Washington Post points out, proving that a desired trademark is both distinct and likely to be confused in the marketplace might be a challenge. That 1974 date cited by Simmons as the symbol’s origin coincides with Kiss’s tour in support of the band’s debut record, but similar gestures have long existed in the world. They’ve popped up everywhere from Beatles’ album covers to the hands of superstitious Italians. Of course, it also means “I love you” in American Sign Language.

If UT can trademark its most famous finger-flash, though, maybe Simmons will rock all the way to the bank.

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