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Trademarks allowed to have foul language

The Supreme Court decided in June 2019, that trademarks with foul language would be legally permitted, striking down a long-time ban on the practice. The ban on immoral or offensive language in trademarks affected companies in California and many other states, but the court decided that this ban violated the constitutional free speech rights of Americans. The restriction on trademark language had been in place since 1905.

All nine justices agreed that the ban on foul language trademarks was a constitutional violation. Several of the justices, however, wrote a separate opinion stating that a ban on scandalous language could be permitted. In 2017, the court struck down a similar ban on disparaging trademarks when they decided on a case involving a rock band with an offensive name. The Patent and Trademark Office said that it is evaluating the latest decision.

The three judges who partly dissented in this decision stated that allowing scandalous language in trademarks could lead to physical altercations in public. They claimed that maintaining this ban would be constitutional because it did not restrict speech in all areas, just in a single type of application. The American Civil Liberties Union stated that the permission of all types of language was the correct decision.

Individuals or companies who believe their intellectual property rights have been violated, either by a third party or the government, may have legal remedies available. The first step is to speak with an attorney who practices IP law. An attorney might evaluate the circumstances of a violation and help their client decide if pursuing legal action is in their best interests. In some cases, trying to appeal a decision made by the government can take years.

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