US Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Ban on Profane Trademarks

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether a federal law that blocks trademarks for brand names or logos bearing profane words or sexual imagery violates free speech rights in a case involving a clothing brand called “FUCT.” 


The justices will hear the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeal of a lower-court decision that the agency should have allowed fashion designer Erik Brunetti to trademark the “FUCT” brand name, which sounds like, but is spelled differently than, a vulgar word. At issue is a provision of U.S. trademark law that lets the trademark office deny requests for trademarks on “immoral” and “scandalous” words and symbols. 


Trademark registrations enable entrepreneurs and companies to protect their brands and bring lawsuits against copycat products. 


The Supreme Court in 2017 unanimously struck down a similar ban on derogatory trademarks in a case involving a Asian-American dance-rock band called The Slants. That case involved a law blocking federal trademarks for messages that may disparage people, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.