F-word wins in Supreme Court free speech case on trademark protection for 'immoral, scandalous' material


WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court defended free speech Monday, even for four-letter words.

Faced with a clothing line called FUCT, the justices struck down federal prohibitions against granting trademark protection for "immoral" or "scandalous" material as unconstitutional.

The vote was 6-3 in an opinion written by Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

"The First Amendment does not allow the government to penalize views just because many people, whether rightly or wrongly, see them as offensive," Kagan said from the bench in announcing the decision.

The three dissenters agreed that "immoral" covers too broad an array of potential trademarks but said the ban on "scandalous" trademarks should stand.

"Refusing registration to obscene, vulgar or profane marks does not offend the First Amendment," Roberts said. "The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech; it does not require the government to give aid and comfort to those usingg obscene, vulgar and profane modes of expression."

And Sotomayor said that under the court's ruling, "the government will have no statutory basis to refuse (and thus no choice but to begin) registering marks containing the most vulgar, profane or obscene words and images imagi

The case was brought by Erik Brunetti, founder of the 30-year-old streetwear clothing line, who previously met a blockade at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A federal appeals court overturned that decision, prompting the government's Supreme Court petition.

The government already could not stop Brunetti from selling his wares, which the Justice Department pointedly noted are available even in children's and infants' sizes. The issue was whether he deserved to register his trademark - a federal benefit that makes it harder for competitors to challenge.

More: This week at Supreme Court: Can clothing firm sell with a trademark resembling the F-word?

The "FUCT" case is the second one in three years contesting trademark registration restrictions. In 2017, the court ruled unanimously that trademarks considered to be disparaging nonetheless deserve First Amendment protection.

That was a victory for an Asian-American dance band dubbed The Slants, a name they said they reappropriated as a badge of pride. The ruling also protected the Washington Redskins football team, whose trademarks had been cancelled following complaints from Native Americans.

During oral argument in April, several justices noted a ruling for the FUCT clothing line would lead to even more vulgar trademarks, such as racial pejoratives. Chief Justice John Roberts called it the "promotion of vulgarity."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: F-word wins in Supreme Court free speech case on trademark protection for 'immoral, scandalous' material


More Related News

Iran alleges foreign government behind
Iran alleges foreign government behind 'treacherous' ship attack

Iran said Monday a foreign government was behind what it alleges was a "treacherous" attack on a tanker off Saudi Arabia last week, as it released pictures of its damaged hull. Tehran says the Iranian-flagged Sabiti oil tanker was hit by two separate explosions off the Red Sea port of Jeddah on Friday. It is the first Iranian ship to have been targeted since a spate of attacks on vessels in the Gulf that Washington blamed on Tehran.

Census Bureau seeks state data, including citizenship info
Census Bureau seeks state data, including citizenship info

The U.S. Census Bureau is asking states for drivers' license records that typically include citizenship data and has made a new request for information on recipients of government assistance, alarming some civil rights advocates. The two approaches, documented by The Associated Press, come amid

Spain jails Catalan leaders up to 13 years for independence bid
Spain jails Catalan leaders up to 13 years for independence bid

Spain's Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine Catalan leaders to prison terms of between nine and 13 years for sedition for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid. The long-awaited verdicts were less than those demanded by the prosecution which had sought up to 25 years behind bars for former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras on grounds of rebellion. Spain has been bracing for weeks for the court's ruling, with tension mounting steadily and police sending reinforcements to Catalonia where separatists have pledged a mass response of civil disobedience.

India tightens security clampdown ahead of divisive temple ruling
India tightens security clampdown ahead of divisive temple ruling

Authorities have tightened security restrictions in the northern Indian flashpoint city of Ayodhya ahead of a crucial Supreme Court ruling over the disputed site fiercely contested between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus and Muslims have for decades been bitterly divided over the 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a city in Uttar Pradash state. The Supreme Court is expected to conclude on October 17 hearings into appeals against a key 2010 court ruling that both groups should split the site, with Hindus granted the lion's share.

Anxiety over Supreme Court arguments pervades Coming Out Day
Anxiety over Supreme Court arguments pervades Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day festivities were tempered this year by anxiety that some LGBT folk may have to go back into the closet so they can make a living, depending on what the Supreme Court decides about workplace discrimination law. "I want all members of our community to feel supported by the government, and often for a lot of us and a lot of friends of mine, it's the first time that they feel represented," said Jessica Goldberg, a bisexual senior at the University of Colorado Denver. This year that includes Philadelphia's OutFest on Sunday, billed as the largest National Coming Out Day event, many LGBT people said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Latin America

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.