WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court struck down today a federal law provision banning the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks, calling it an infringement of the First Amendment, but Judge Alito called for Congress to legislate more explicitly against what he considers “vulgar” terms.
“The justices’ ruling clears the way for a clothing designer to apply for a federal trademark for his clothing line called FUCT,” CNN reported.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion. The ruling was unanimous in part and 6-3 in part. Kagan was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch in full, while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in part.
“We hold that this provision infringes the First Amendment,” Kagan wrote, because it “disfavors certain ideas.”
The ruling, according to CNN, “could open the doors to more requests to register words or phrases that have been considered vulgar, a concern that the court’s minority feared.”
Justice Alito, however, suggested Congress should legislate to more explicitly prevent people from trademarking “vulgar terms,” which he apparently thinks do not play real part in ideological debates.
For the Conservative Justice, nominated by George W. Bush in 2006, Congress should define “vulgar terms” as words that “further coarsen our popular culture.”
FUCT owner, Erik Brunetti, named his brand in 1990 allegedly “to question authority.” Brunetti claims he made-up word, homophone for “fucked,” is actually an acronym for “FRIENDS U CAN’T TRUST.”
Brunetti attempted to register his trademark in 2011, but the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused him.