J. Scott Applewhite / AP
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Dirty words only make it to the Supreme Court occasionally. One of those occasions came Monday, in a case involving a clothing line, named "FUCT."
The issue is whether the U.S.
And, for the justices, the immediate problem of how to discuss the F-word without actually saying it.
The "FUCT "Bruno opened the line in 1990, aimed at 20-somethings, and he's been."
Brunetti opened the line in 1990;
"Go to eBay, and you'll see a lot of counterfeits, or go to Amazon, and you'll see lots of counterfeits," he said, noting that the knockoffs are costing him real money.
If he could get his trademarked trademark, he could go after copycats and shut them down. The U.S. Government Patent and Trademark Office, however, has consistently rejected its trademark application, contending those letters, "FUCT," violate the federal statute that bars trademark protection for "immoral," "shocking," "offensive," and "scandalous" words.
Brunetti's case was a boost two years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that Asian-American band calling itself "The Slants" could not be denied trademark protection.
Dealing with the brand name "FUCT" proved a bit more daunting in the Supreme Court chamber Monday. Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart referred to the brand name as a "profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity and perhaps the paradigmatic word of profanity in our language."
The government, he maintained, can deny trademark protection for that word. The justices have been trademarks of the government, and which ones had not.
Suffice to say that while "FUCT" did not win trademark approval, "FCUK" did, and so did the well-known brand "FUBAR." The word "crap" was registered in a trademarked name 70 times, but the S-word was consistently denied.
That prompted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg defines what is scandalous, shocking or offensive? And, so inquired, Ginsburg, 20-year-olds generally find "FUCT" to be shocking or scandalous?
Probably not, the government's stewart conceded. But he said the term would still be shocking or offensive to a substantial segment of the population. Thus, it can be denied trademark registration, he argued.
Justice Neil Gorsuch pointed to the chart, declaring that it was hard to see why certain trademarks were either used or not.
Justice Samuel Alito asked what would happen if "really dirty words" were at issue. How about "racial slurs"? Stewart replied that because of the court's decision in the "Slants" case, most of the trademarks are with racial slur are now approved.
Representing "FUCT" designer Brunetti, lawyer John Sommer did not have an easy time either. Justice Breyer had this question: why does not the government have the right to say, in essence, "You can use this language in your brand name, but the government does not want to be associated with it by granting trademark protection?"
"What I'm worried about," said Breyer, is that it appears as a product name "Brunettes is appealing to," Summer replied.
Chief Justice John Roberts interjected.
At the end of his argument, summer returned to the language of the statute, arguing that "offensiveness" is the standard for turning down a trademark, "Steak 'n Shake" may not be registered either because "a substantial portion of Americans believe it to be beef is immoral."
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