California residents may be interested in a brand name trademark case that is headed to the United States Supreme Court for review. The case involves a fashion designer whose trademark application was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the grounds that the name of his clothing line is vulgar.
The clothing line is called FUCT. The USPTO rejected the owner's trademark application in 2011, citing a federal law, the Lanham Act, which prohibits trademarks containing matter that is "immoral, deceptive or scandalous.". The agency declared the name FUCT to be scandalous, calling it the past tense of a vulgar homonym.
The owner appealed the decision before the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. His appeal was denied, but in 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ordered that decision reversed. The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to review the case. SCOTUS agreed on Jan. 4 and added the case to a list of cases to be considered in 2019.
Last year, SCOTUS ruled in another case that the registration of 'disparaging" trademarks violated the First Amendment. That ruling was cited by the federal appeals court when it found that barring such trademarks violated the constitutional protection of free speech. But the undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property at the USPTO stated when asking the Supreme Court to consider the case that the First Amendment does not prohibit Congress from barring vulgar terms from trademark registration.
Intellectual property rights can be valuable for many companies. By registering a trademark, businesses can ensure that they have the exclusive right to use the business name, a slogan, a design or another nonfunctional characteristic of the business. Companies might want to have legal assistance when navigating what can be a complex process.