Federal law prohibits the registration of trademarks that are “immoral or scandalous.” At least it did until today, when the Supreme Court held that the requirement violated the First Amendment.
The case focused on artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who sells clothing under the trademark FUCT. Brunetti claims the mark is “pronounced as four letters, one after the other: F-U-C-T.” But a lot of people have interpreted it as (in the words of the government’s lawyer in the case) “the profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity.”
Beyond that, the US Patent and Trademark Office looked at the products being sold under the FUCT mark. “Brunetti’s website and products contained imagery, near the mark, of ‘extreme nihilism’ and ‘antisocial’ behavior,” the Supreme court noted in its Monday opinion. The trademark office concluded that the FUCT mark “communicated misogyny, depravity, and violence,” and rejected the registration.