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US Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Prohibition on Registration of 'Immoral, Scandalous' Trademarks

The court held that such a prohibition violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

AFP

Updated:June 24, 2019, 11:40 PM IST
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US Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Prohibition on Registration of 'Immoral, Scandalous' Trademarks
Image for representation.

Washington: The US Supreme Court ruled in favour of the clothing brand FUCT in a free speech case on Monday, saying the name could be trademarked.

The nation's highest court, in a 6-3 decision, struck down a federal prohibition on the registration of trademarks deemed to be "immoral or scandalous".

The court held that such a prohibition violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

Justice Samuel Alito said barring the FUCT trademark amounts to "viewpoint discrimination." "Viewpoint discrimination is poison to a free society," Alito said.

In its majority opinion, the court said "the 'immoral or scandalous' bar is substantially overbroad.

"There are a great many immoral and scandalous ideas in the world (even more than there are swearwords)," it said.

The case was brought by Erik Brunetti, who founded the Los Angeles streetwear line FUCT in 1991 and filed suit after his trademark request to the US Patent and Trademark Office was rejected.

Brunetti said it is pronounced as four letters -- F-U-C-T -- but as the court said "you might read it differently and, if so, you would hardly be alone."

Emerson Sykes, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, welcomed the ruling as a "victory for the First Amendment."

"Government bureaucrats should not be deciding what speech is or is not deserving of trademark protection based on what they consider to be too 'scandalous' and 'immoral,'" Sykes said in a statement.

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