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KISS’s Gene Simmons seeks to trademark ‘sign of the horns’ hand gesture

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Synonymous with rock and heavy metal music, KISS bassist Gene Simmons is seeking to claim the iconic ‘sign of the horns’ hand gesture as his own.

The sexagenarian rocker, estimated to be worth $300million (£235million), filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office last Friday (9th June) attempting to trademark ownership of the gesture.

Gene – real name Chain Witz - claims that the ‘sign of the horns’ or ‘devil horns’ originates specifically from the band’s Hotter Than Hell tour in 1974.

According to the paperwork, Gene wants to trademark the gesture for “entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist.”

Most people place their thumb over their middle fingers while making the sign, however Gene's trademark is for a slightly different version. 

“The mark consists of a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular,” Gene notes. Here is a drawing that is included in Gene’s application:

The Trademark Office now needs to consider whether the hand gesture, widely used as the international sign of rock music, can be registered or if it’s too generic to be associated with one person.  

Gene is likely to be met with a lot of derision and counter-arguments to his extremely bold claim.  

For example, the gesture was used by John Lennon on the single cover to The Beatles’ double A-side Yellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby in 1966, eight years before Gene Simmons says he started using it. The cartoon drawing of John Lennon on the 'Yellow Submarine' album cover is also making the sign. 

The back cover to the 1969 album ‘Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls’ by psychedelic rockers Coven also featured band members making the gesture, while to Parliament-Funkadelic fans in the early seventies it was known as the ‘P-Funk sign’.

However, the ‘sign of the horns’ is perhaps most associated with late rock legend Ronnie James Dio who is widely credited with popularizing it.

Asked by in 2001 if he is the one who introduced the gesture to metal music, Ronnie James Dio said: “I doubt very much if I would be the first one who ever did that. That's like saying I invented the wheel, I'm sure someone did that at some other point. I think you'd have to say that I made it fashionable.

“I used it so much and all the time and it had become my trademark until the Britney Spears audience decided to do it as well. So it kind of lost its meaning with that. But it was.... I was in Sabbath at the time. It was a symbol that I thought was reflective of what that band was supposed to be all about.

“It's NOT the devil's sign like we're here with the devil. It's an Italian thing I got from my Grandmother called the "Malocchio". It's to ward off the Evil Eye or to give the Evil Eye, depending on which way you do it.

It's just a symbol but it had magical incantations and attitudes to it and I felt it worked very well with Sabbath. So I became very noted for it and then everybody else started to pick up on it and away it went. But I would never say I take credit for being the first to do it. I say because I did it so much that it became the symbol of rock and roll of some kind.”

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