On April 15, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether the mark “FUCT” could be registered on the U.S. Trademarks Registry in Iancu v. Brunetti. (Apparently, the judges struggled with how to refer to the brand during the hearing, drawing a few chuckles from spectators).
See oral arguments on C-SPAN here.
The case was brought by Los Angeles graffiti artist, Erik Brunetti, owner of FUCT fashion line, after the USPTO rejected his application on the basis that the mark was scandalous. The term “FUCT,” an acronym for the paradox “Friends U Can’t Trust”, challenges federal law that states “immoral or scandalous matter” must be refused trademark protection. Brunetti argued that his first amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated. Indeed, he has launched a supplementary brand: Fuct is free speech. Free speech is Fuct™.
In 2017, the US Supreme Court unanimously invalidated a related provision of federal law on the basis that it violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. See Matal v. Tam. In that case, an Asian American rock band had been refused registration of their mark THE SLANTS on the basis that it was a disparaging mark that was offensive to Asians. The Lanham Act’s anti-disparagement provision was deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, and the band was permitted to register THE SLANTS.
The Supreme Court is due for a decision this summer, but till then, we hope the result isn’t “FUCT”.
For more information on what can (and cannot!) be trademarked, please contact us.