The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law on Monday that bars registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment.
Justice Elena Kagan led a six-justice majority to invalidate the provision of the 1946 Lanham Act which designer Erik Brunetti challenged after he was denied a trademark for his “FUCT” clothing brand. This decision was the second time the Supreme Court struck down a Lanham Act provision on free speech grounds, with a 2017 ruling stating Asian American band The Slants couldn’t be refused trademark protection because its name is viewed as racially disparaging.
The USPTO had previously rejected a trademark application for the word “FUCT”, which the owner said stands for “Friends U Can’t Trust.” The designs of the brand include shirts, hoodies, and jackets, and features such shirts like an enlarged $100 bill featuring a portrait of Osama bin Laden, and others appear with the phrases “We are f**t”.
Brunetti said he was seeking the trademark so he can legally pursue copycats and counterfeiters easier, and insists the word is to be pronounced letter by letter, not together. The high court ruled the ban on “immoral” or “scandalous” marks is prejudiced against certain views and requires the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to disfavor applicants.