Gene Simmons seeks to trademark rock hand gesture
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Gene Simmons seeks to trademark rock hand gesture

Israeli-born bass player and vocalist for KISS claims he first used the index finger and pinky sign in 1974 tour

Gene Simmons (r) with the band KISS seen making the two-fingered gesture at LG Arena in Birmingham, UK on May 10, 2010. (CC BY-SA Andrew King, Flickr)
Gene Simmons (r) with the band KISS seen making the two-fingered gesture at LG Arena in Birmingham, UK on May 10, 2010. (CC BY-SA Andrew King, Flickr)

Gene Simmons, the Israeli-born bass player and vocalist for the hard-rock band KISS has applied for a trademark on a hand gesture used by rock and metal fans the world over.

In the application filed on June 9 with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the gesture is described as “a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular.”

Simmons says that he first started using the hand sign, known to hard rock fans as “devil horns,” on November 14, 1974. During that time the band was touring following the release a month earlier of its second album, “Hotter than Hell.”

Simmons wants to register the sign for “entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist,” according to the application, reported in Hollywood Reporter.

In a drawing of the costumed band for the cover 1977’s “Love Gun” Simmons can be seen on the right with his fist clenched and index finger and pinky extended.

Throughout the band’s long career, it has been known as much for its theatrics and marketing as for its music. Simmons is known as a shrewd businessman.

However, some critics on Twitter felt the patent application went too far, calling it the death of hard rock.

Although Simmons claims he was the first to use the gesture in the context of hard rock, Ronnie James Dio is credited with popularizing the sign during his tenure with Black Sabbath, which he joined in 1979.

Dio said of the hand signal, “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.”

A Boston radio DJ pointed out that John Lennon made the sign on the cover of 1966’s “Yellow Submarine” single.

The gesture is also the American sign language for “I love you.”

So Simmons may have a tough time claiming any title to the gesture. It is also not clear what difference it would make if his patent application succeeded.

Simmons, who is one of the main song writers in the legendary band, was born Chaim Witz in Haifa and emigrated to New York City with his mother, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, at the age of eight. His father, who subsequently remarried, stayed in Israel.

KISS, formed in New York in 1973, became one of the biggest rock acts of the 1970s through their combination of straight-up power rock, outlandish face paint and spectacular live performances featuring pyrotechnics, aerial work and simulated gore.

The group has sold over 100 millions albums and has acquired 28 gold records.

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