Supreme Court strikes down ban on profane trademarks

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on June 24, 2019 - Duration: 01:22s

Supreme Court strikes down ban on profane trademarks

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a longstanding U.S. ban on trademarks with "immoral" or "scandalous" words and symbols, ruling in a case involving a clothing brand that the law violates constitutional free speech rights.

This video contains language some viewers may find offensive.

Zachary Goelman reports.

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Supreme Court strikes down ban on profane trademarks

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that this guy can have his trademark, which we won't say aloud.

Los Angeles artist and designer Erik Brunetti created a fashion line named, well, spelled, F-U-C-T.

But U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied him a trademark, citing a law from 1905 banning "immoral" and "scandalous" words and symbols in brands.

Brunetti sued, saying that law constrained his constitutional right to free expression.

The Trump administration pushed back, arguing that ditching the law would invite a flood of profane trademarks.

But on Monday, the justices struck down the law, saying it violated the First Amendment.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the opinion, joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh.

Samuel Alito, a staunch conservative, wrote in a separate concurring opinion that Congress could decide to ban explicitly foul language from trademarks, but that setting a bar at "immoral" or "scandalous" words was too high.

The chief justice, John Roberts, also had his own opinion, disagreeing with the majority on one key point: The government was not stopping Brunetti from selling shirts and hats with four-letter words.

Roberts said the law denied him a trademark, not his First Amendment rights.

Brunetti prevailed, and on Monday his brand's web site displayed this message, which includes a trademark symbol.

The statement is also available on a t-shirt.

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