Kiss cofounder Gene Simmons wants his trademark gesture to be literally trademarked.
Simmons has filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the “devil horns” or “metal horns” gesture he commonly uses, as in the image above.
The application filed Friday claims Simmons first used the gesture “in commerce” on Nov. 14, 1974, and wants to trademark its use in “entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist.”
It also states that “the mark consists of a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular.”
The gesture was also widely associated with the late metal legend Ronnie James Dio, although he favored it with the thumbs tucked in:
However, Dio himself declined to take credit for it.
“That’s like saying I invented the wheel,” he told Metal Rules in 2001. “I’m sure someone did that at some other point. I think you’d have to say that I made it fashionable.”
Dio ― who said he got the gesture from his Italian grandmother ― also took issue with Simmons.
“Gene Simmons will tell you that he invented it,” he once said. “But then again, Gene invented breathing and shoes and everything else.”
Other musicians have at times openly mocked Simmons’ claim to have invented the gesture.
“Well, he would, wouldn’t he? He is so eeevilll,” Lemmy, the late Motorhead lead singer and bassist, told LA CityBEAT in 2004, according to Blabbermouth. “Come on, gimme a fucking break.”
The same report also quotes members of Metallica as attributing the gesture to Dio.
There are others in music who have used the gesture ― or variations of it ― even earlier than in the claim that Simmons has made.
There’s an image of Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler using the gesture that’s believed to date to 1971, it’s on the back cover of the 1969 Coven album “Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls” and even seen in a promotional image of the Beatles in 1966 for “Yellow Submarine” as well as in the poster for the animated film.
Butler and Coven tucked the thumbs in, while John Lennon on the Beatles’ image appears to have his pointing out.
With the thumb out ― as in Simmons’ trademark application ― the gesture also means “I Love You” in American Sign Language, as it combines the letters “I,” “L,” and “Y.”
And in Austin, a very similar gesture has been used for more than half a century by fans of the University of Texas Longhorns, where it means “hook ’em Horns.”
In fact, use of the gesture may go back centuries, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that it has even been seen in medieval manuscripts.
And the gesture and its variations have different meanings in different cultures. In Spain, Greece, and Italy, for example, it is suggestive and implies a person’s partner is cheating.