Vulgar, scandalous, immoral? SCOTUS says OK for trademark

By Erin Milnes

August 6, 2019

Supreme Court rules on trademarkThe Supreme Court ruled last month that it is unconstitutional for the US Patent and Trademark Office to ban “immoral or scandalous” names.

The suit arose when Erik Brunetti, founder of fashion brand Fuct, attempted to register the trademark, and was refused. Although Brunetti’s lawyers stated that the name was to be sounded out as an abbreviation “F-U-C-T” (c’mon, folks, really?), the USPTO argued that the name was too vulgar, violating the Lanham Act (the law governing trademark).

SCOTUS unanimously ruled that the law enabled the government to discriminate against trademarks that espouse particular points of view and there fore violates the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

The trademark prohibition hadn’t stopped many companies before now from choosing intentionally shocking names. (It’s common for local companies not to even bother trying to register a mark for their company name.) Lifestyle brands such as alcohol, makeup, and fashion have especially dipped into the indelicate to get attention for their products.

Stay tuned next week for Catchword’s Raunchy Name Roundup.

FUCT t-shirt


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