Earlier this month, legendary KISS bassist and singer Gene Simmons submitted a trademark application that sought to register a familiar sight at rock concerts. The business-savvy rocker wanted to corner the market on the "devil horns" hand gesture, a fixture among heavy metal audiences for decades.
Simmons' attempt was met by criticism from throughout the music world, and widespread derision in the media. The controversy proved short-lived, as Simmons this week abandoned his quest with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Simmons did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.
Still, the rocker's attempt raised an interesting question about whether he–or anyone else for that matter–could actually prevail in such a quest to make money from a hand gesture. In the wake of Simmons' aborted effort, CNBC canvased a few experts to get their take.
"It is very highly unlikely that the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who examines and registers trademarks, would issue one for Mr. Simmons," said John Conway, a trademark and business law attorney and CEO of the Astonish media group.
"Mr. Simmons would have to somehow demonstrate the uniqueness or special meaning... that consumers would automatically connect that hand signal to Mr. Simmons as an artist," he added. Conway also pointed out that the gesture is used in sign language, and is similar to the one used by Spider-Man to spin a web—which dates back to at least the 1960's.
The web-slinging teen from Queens is far from the only one.
"John Lennon used it at least as early as 1969 on the cover of the Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' album," Conway added. "It has been used by many other artists and fans in the heavy metal genre for decades. The origins of the hand sign go back to medieval Italian hand signs to ward off curses."