Three In a Row for First Amendment Protection of Trademarks
Erik Brunetti is an artist and entrepreneur who founded a clothing line that has been selling goods under the name FUCT for many years. He claims that the mark is pronounced as four letters F-U-C-T. “But you might read it differently” to quote the Supreme Court.
Brunetti attempted to trademark his brand name for many years, filing his first unsuccessful trademark application in 1993. Brunetti tried again in 2011, and his registration was again refused because the Trademark Office considered the mark to be scandalous or immoral. Brunetti appealed this matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor and held that prohibiting registration of scandalous or immoral trademarks violated the First Amendment.
This is the third in a series of cases where courts have scrutinized whether trademark registration procedures are in alignment with the First Amendment.
- In Matal v. Tam, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects disparaging trademarks.
- In United States v. Mongol Nation, a California federal court held that the First Amendment protects trademarks that inspire fear.
- And now, in Iancu v. Brunetti, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects immoral or scandalous trademarks.