The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a new case that will determine if the government can deny trademark protection to words or phrases it deems vulgar. The decision will have far-reaching implications for what should be protected as free speech under the First Amendment.
The case in question, Lancu vs. Brunetti, involves Los Angeles-based clothing brand “FUCT.” Founder Erik Brunetti applied for trademark protection of the name in 2011, but was denied. Attorneys at the United States Patent and Trademark Office nixed his application on the basis that the phrase was “immoral” and “scandalous.”
The USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the decision, finding that the apparel company displayed “strong, and often explicit, sexual imagery that objectifies women and offers degrading examples of extreme misogyny.”
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision.
Now the country’s highest court will have to consider whether the Lanham Act, which governs trademarks in the U.S., is lawful and should be allowed to continue blocking trademark protection to brands it finds offensive.
FUCT could not immediately be reached for comment.