Left Menu
Development News Edition

UPDATE 3-U.S. Supreme Court to hear challenge to ban on profane trademarks


The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether a federal law that blocks trademarks for brand names or logos bearing profane words or sexual imagery violates free speech rights in a case involving a clothing brand called "FUCT."

The justices will hear the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's appeal of a lower court decision that the agency should have allowed fashion designer Erik Brunetti to trademark the "FUCT" brand name, which sounds like, but is spelled differently than, a profanity.

At issue is a provision of U.S. trademark law that lets the trademark office deny requests for trademarks on "immoral" and "scandalous" words and symbols, and whether the law violates the guarantee of free speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

Trademark registrations enable entrepreneurs and companies to protect their brands and bring lawsuits against copycat products.

The Supreme Court in 2017 unanimously struck down a similar ban on derogatory trademarks in a case involving a Asian-American dance-rock band called The Slants, also on First Amendment grounds. That case involved a law blocking federal trademarks for messages that may disparage people, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.

The Patent and Trademark Office in 2014 denied a request by Brunetti for a trademark on FUCT, saying the trademark would be perceived as equivalent to the profanity it sounds like. Brunetti appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which found that the ban "impermissibly discriminates based on content in violation of the First Amendment."

The agency asked the Supreme Court to review that decision, arguing that "the First Amendment does not prohibit Congress from making vulgar terms and graphic sexual images ineligible for federal trademark registration."

The agency argued that, unlike the ban on disparaging trademarks struck down by the high court in 2017, the provision relating to vulgar terms was "viewpoint neutral" and therefore lawful.

The high court's willingness to hear the new case suggests some of the justices are receptive to that argument, said Sarah Burstein, a professor of intellectual property law at the University of Oklahoma. Burstein said the high court has provided limited legal protections for obscene material in other contexts.

"I'm very skeptical the court took the case just to pat the Federal Circuit on the head and say, 'Job well done,'" Burstein said.

A Patent and Trademark Office spokesman declined to comment.

John Sommer, a lawyer for Brunetti, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Download The Devdiscourse News App for Latest News.


TRENDING

OPINION/BLOG/INTERVIEW

Beware! Maximum cyber criminals eye your personal data

A report of the World Economic Forum revealed that cyber security is increasingly becoming an issue of public security as the majority of cyber criminals are increasingly targetting individual internet users. This requires preventive measur...

WEF 2020: Trump seems politically correct in pulling out from Paris Agreement

If the survey of the World Economic Forum WEF is believed, Trump seems to enjoy the confidence of his people in flaying climate intuitions and climate activists. His preference for economic development over environmental protection not only...

From home to healthcare, here are Robotic innovations transforming lives

Lovot is equipped with more than 50 sensors such as thermography, microphone array, obstacle detection, and touch sensor to generate motion and emotions in real-time....

Translating words to deeds: Achieving gender parity in access to financial resources

... ...

Videos

Latest News

6 of family gunned down in Pakistan for 'honour'

In a gruesome case of honor killing in Pakistan, six members of a family, including two women and a child, were gunned down in their sleep in the countrys southern Sindh province, police said on Tuesday. According to the police, the father ...

China's Great Wall Motor set for India debut at Auto Expo

Chinas largest SUV manufacturer Great Wall Motor GWM on Tuesday said it will showcase various products and technologies during the upcoming Auto Expo next month as part of its launch in the Indian market. The automaker will also showcase Ha...

Maha: One killed, four injured as tempo runs over pedestrians

A 28-year-old fruit vendor was crushed to death and four others injured when a speeding tempo ran over them in Maharashtras Palghar district, police said on Tuesday. The incident took place at around 11.30 pm on Monday, when a speeding tem...

Netanyahu says drops request for immunity from graft charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he had dropped his request for parliamentary immunity from corruption charges. The announcement came hours before he was to meet in the White House with President Donald Trump for ...

Give Feedback