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Supreme Court strikes down law against 'scandalous' trademarks

By Danielle Haynes
Supreme Court strikes down law against 'scandalous' trademarks
The Supreme Court said the U.S. trademark law is discriminatory against varying viewpoints on similar topics such as drug use, terrorism and religion. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a law prohibiting trademark protection to brand names that some consider obscene, allowing clothing company FUCT to move forward with legal recognition.

The ruling came after Erik Brunetti, the founder of the clothing line, attempted to register the trademark for the company and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected it. Federal officials said the name of the company was the "phonetic equivalent" of an expletive and as such violates the century-old law against trademarking "scandalous" subject matter.

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The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down that law, saying it infringes on the First Amendment.

"The clothing line is pronounced as four letters, one after the other: F-U-C-T. But you might read it differently and, if so, you would hardly be alone," Associate Justice Elena Kagan said, writing for the majority.

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Brunetti said the name of the company stands for "Friends You Can't Trust."

The problem with the trademark law, the majority opinion said, was that it "does not draw the line at lewd, sexually explicit or profane remarks."

"The statute, on its face, distinguishes between two opposed sets of ideas: those aligned with conventional moral standards and those hostile to them; those inducing societal nods of approval and those provoking offense and condemnation," the ruling reads. "This facial viewpoint bias in the law results in viewpoint-discriminatory application."

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Even though the PTO has rejected trademark registration for "immoral" views about topics such as drug use, religion and terrorism, "it has approved registration of marks expressing more accepted views on the same topics."

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