David Fink and Sarah Diamond published “Supreme Court Strikes Down Prohibition of Registration of Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks on First Amendment Grounds” in Communications Lawyer. The following is an excerpt:
On June 24, 2019, the US Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated opinion in Iancu v. Brunetti, holding that the Lanham Act’s prohibition on the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment.
In 1990, Erik Brunetti, an artist and entrepreneur, founded the streetwear clothing line FUCT (pronounced as four letters, one after the other: F-U-C-T). Brunetti attempted to register the FUCT trademark in order to protect its value. The US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied his application for registration, concluding that because it was phonetically equivalent to the “past participle” of “a well-known” vulgarity, registering the FUCT trademark would violate Section 1052(a) of the Lanham Act, which prohibits trademark protection for immoral, shocking, offensive, and scandalous marks. After exhausting his remedies in the PTO, Brunetti brought a First Amendment challenge to Section 1052(a) in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.