back to article It's official. You can get FUCT, US Supremes tell scandalized bureaucrats in rude trademark spat

When Erik Brunetti in 2011 first tried to obtain a trademark for his clothing company FUCT, the US Patent and Trademark Office blocked his application. The USPTO relied on a portion of the Lanham Act that allows trademarks to be denied if they "[consist of or comprise] immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter." So Brunetti …

  1. vir

    Bring In The Fashion Police

    Does it meet the legal definition of scandalous, maybe not, but I have some sort of allergy to these "oh it looks like a naughty word but it's actually not look at how clever we are here's a hint we're so clever" ploys. E.g. Schitt's Creek, FCUK, etc.

    1. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

      Not many people care, I only know one person who cares, my colleage, Wan. Wan cares.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

        Belgium to the lot of you, Belgium I say.

        1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

          Reported to the moderators! We have must have some standards here, sir!

        2. big_D Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

          You actually dared to use the worst swear word in the universe? :-O

          Wow, just wow!

        3. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

          You stupid Ghent. Brugge the lot of you!

        4. zuckzuckgo

          Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

          Bloody sprouts!

      2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

        Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

        Wan cares.

        Jack cares too. Jack Schitt.

      3. Ken Shabby Bronze badge

        Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

        Well there was Wang Laboratories...

        "Wang Cares"

        "My Wang never goes down!"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

          In a previous job we used the excellent audio measuring sets made by Wayne Kerr Electronics... many's the time I've heard someone cry out "Where's the Wayne Kerr?"

          (we also had some cheap 'equivalents' made by a rival company... they were known as 'Wayne Kerrs' for a different reason)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

      "oh it looks like a naughty word but it's actually not look at how clever we are here's a hint we're so clever"

      Yep. It's like a 5 year old pushing the boundaries time after time trying to find out where the line actually is. Except these are adults who supposedly are capable of functioning in a normal society where most people generally accept the rules and aren't constantly pushing through the grey areas to find the line like the 5 year old. They are the sociopaths who force strict rules with defined "lines" on the rest of us so we end up with 1000's of petty little laws for highly specific acts instead of general laws we can all accept.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

        "The 1000s of petty little laws" is a result of large chunks of the USA being of Germanic/eastern european stock, culture, and religious nutjob tendencies (a result of centuries of warfare over what colour socks a certain arab was wearing one day on a hill - he was probably wearing sandals) despite being a common law country. They'd legislate blasphemy if they could. (some areas actually did). The rest of the world simply rolls their eyes and ignores people saying naughty words unless they're doing so whilst waving fists(or other things) around.

        Say it aint so and I'll point to the factor that the proliferation of those laws (and morality enforcement) is strongest in areas of germanic+religious nutjob migration.

        The real takeaway from this is that the Lanham Act has just been declared unconstitutional and that's been the go-to for meddling morality busybodies American Taliban types for _decades_. I can think of much more offensive behaviour in media or public places that US lawmakers won't touch - such as wearing swastikas and shouting "sieg heil", or wearing sheets and white pointy hats whilst carrying torches and waving bibles around.

        It's time to invest in popcorn shares, because shit's about to get _very_ interesting in Middle America.

        1. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

          "whilst waving fists(or other things) around."

          I think "testiculating" is the word you are looking for.

          Waving your hands in the air whilst speaking bollocks.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

        Except these are adults who supposedly are capable of functioning in a normal society where most people generally accept the rules and aren't constantly pushing through the grey areas to find the line like the 5 year old.

        I don't think you understand the implications of the ruling.

        The whole point of the ruling is that they did not break the rules. It is the USPTO who was breaking the rules (i.e. the constitution) by refusing the mark on scandalous or immoral grounds.

        Furthermore, the business was free to use - and did - the FUCT trademark in business irrespective of what the USPTO said. All the USPTO does is register a trademark, which gives additional protections in the mark. Whether the USPTO accepts a mark for registration or not does not affect whether the mark exists under common law or can or can not be used.

    3. ExampleOne

      Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

      In fairness to FC:UK, that brand isn't JUST a clever ploy to work around the naughty words list. The company was called French Connection, and was a UK company with overseas sections well before they started using the fcuk branding.

      That said, they clearly were aware of the "controversial" element of the branding when they chose to use it publically.

    4. XPeterX

      Re: Bring In The Fashion Police

      FUCT?? Really, can we all grow younger ? Children use these words with regularity. The older WE get the more we avoid the *horrible* words that FUCT makes us supposedly think of. Just do it, don't say or think it. We get more and more hypocritical as we age. Just plain silly.

  2. Magani
    Alert

    Bah and possibly, Humbug!

    I blame all those indolent young people with hoods on and looking at their phones.

    Get off my lawn and get a job! (Oh, and learn how to use apostrophes!)

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Bah and possibly, Humbug!

      Your grand dad blamed all those young people listening to that satanic Rock and Roll, and HIS grand dad blamed it on Jazz

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Coat

        And his dad blamed it on tango.

        1. a pressbutton

          dont get his ancestors started on the waltz...

          1. thosrtanner

            Not to mention the rock music with REAL rocks

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Hypocrisy transcends generations.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    Unleash a "flood of vulgarity"?

    I don't see why this would result. All it does is let you trademark something like "New York Fucking City", it doesn't make consumers more likely to wear clothes that say that, or patronize a business called that. It just protects a SUCCESSFUL business selling such clothes or whatever from someone else stealing their idea. If you file a trademark for t-shirts that say that and no one buys them, then what difference did the trademark make?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unleash a "flood of vulgarity"?

      Trademark application: $225 to $400

      Rendering the US Register of Trademarks NSFW: Priceless

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        You really should have put your name on that.

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Unleash a "flood of vulgarity"?

      All it does is let you trademark something like "New York Fucking City"

      You already can, and always could, trademark "New York Fucking City" (unless someone else has it that is).

      This decision just means that you can register the trademark with the USPTO. The USPTO is not an arbiter of what is and is not a trademark, it is only a registration body, and its powers are limited to registering or not registering a mark. And registration, or lack of, is not a determiner of whether a trademark is in fact a trademark or not, it merely grants extra benefits, which are usually only applicable in a court setting when sueballs are being flung around over a trademark.

      All it takes to make a trademark is for you to declare you have a mark "<insert desired mark>". It is up to the courts to decide, via a challenge to the mark by someone else, whether the mark is valid or not. In this respect, the USPTO is not a source of truth, it is a source of expert testimony if you will. A court can overturn a registered mark as easily as an unregistered mark, or, as in this case, can affirm a registered mark as easily as affirm an unregistered one.

  4. Big Al 23

    Who will buy this clothing?

    Is there some pent up demand for FUCT clothing?

    1. Garymrrsn

      Re: Who will buy this clothing?

      Nobody if they don't know it exists.

      That is the reason for picking a name that will get people talking about it and some of those people will be curious enough to go see what the clothes look like.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Who will buy this clothing?

        Exactly this. They don't care if they win or lose, although I'm sure they would much rather win. It's cheap publicity, the legal fees probably come from the marketing budget (so of course, as I mentioned above, they are all sociopaths by definition)

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Who will buy this clothing?

      havingt a T shirt that says 'FUCT' on it would get enough laughs, so sure (I might buy it). If it's not too expensive...

      oh, and well done to the Supreme Court "getting it right". More of same, please.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Who will buy this clothing?

        Not interested because they cannot spell. Where can I get Beatrix Kiddo's shoes?

  5. The Nazz Silver badge

    Ha ha here's my Dating App for very busy people with only one day a week to spare.

    C U Next Tuesday.

    So, for all you first amendment supporters out there, sign up now you C U N T's

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Ha ha here's my Dating App for very busy people with only one day a week to spare.

      Seems like our dates aren't with each other, I received a message C U Next Thursday ;)

      1. John H Woods

        Re: Ha ha here's my Dating App for very busy people with only one day a week to spare.

        Thursday is 'R' as any fule no

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Ha ha here's my Dating App for very busy people with only one day a week to spare.

          Thursday is 'R' as any fule no

          In that case I am clearly no fool ;)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will it help?

    A number of aspects of US culture are stuck in the 17th or 18th century. Whilst this change will most appeal to people over there with the sense of humour of a five year old, it might help against the creeping Bowdlerisation of the English language that some of them seem to try on me.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Will it help?

      "A number of aspects of US culture are stuck in the 17th or 18th century. "

      This particular aspect ("new morality") is very much a late 19th-early 20th century thing - as is the Lanham Act.

      The rose-coloured specs about our predecessors is a direct result of rigid censorship and rewriting by many prudish historians and authors - Tolkein's academic work on old english texts being one of the more egrarious examples of Bowdlerisation

      It's ironic that "Bowdlerisation" is used, when he specifically targetted Shakespeare - and most of the bard's stuff the public are familiar with these days is what has been tampered with, not the originals.

      1. John Sager

        Re: Will it help?

        most of the bard's stuff the public are familiar with these days is what has been tampered with, not the originals

        Citation? I find it less than credible that most of the published works of Shakespeare derive from Bowdler's version.

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Will it help?

        one of the more egrarious examples of Bowdlerisation

        Which is it?

        egregious standing out from the flock

        gregarious running with the flock

        1. Patched Out

          Re: Will it help?

          Maybe it was meant to be agrarious - raising of the flock.

  7. GreggS

    C U next tuesday

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge

    A bit worrying ...

    one justices decision seemed to have fuck all to do with the law, and something to do with their own world view ?

    "With the Lanham Act’s scandalous-marks provision, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), struck down as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, 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 imaginable."

    Boo fucking hoo. Suck it up - it's what the founders intended. If they hadn't, you wouldn't have a first amendment.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: A bit worrying ...

      Part of the analysis that goes into supreme court rulings involves considering the implications, the knock-on effects, of their ruling. This is one of the reasons it can take so long for them to make a ruling, there is a lot to consider.

      A justice calling out the implications of a decision is part of what they are supposed to do whether you (or anyone else) agree or not with that analysis.

  9. Snorlax Silver badge

    Puritans

    Funny that some people blame puritanical 'Mericans for this kind of thing.

    The reality is that trademark law which denies protection to offensive trademarks is the same in most countries on earth - pretty much word-for-word actually.

    There are a few notable exceptions such as Australia, where a trademark must be 'scandalous' before it can't be registered.

    So, unsurprisingly, trademarks like "Pommie Basher" are ok.

    Have fun searching for your favourite sweary trademarks on the IP Australia website

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fools and money etc. Not surprising the company can afford to take it to the Supreme Court.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The government can't ban 'FUCT'

    The point is that is that it thought it could.

    In other words, it doesn't understand its own laws.

    That's worrying.

    1. Nunyabiznes

      Re: The government can't ban 'FUCT'

      That's kind of the point of a tiered system of courts ruling on legislation and executive action. Checks and balances. The writer(s) of the Constitution knew there would be misinterpretation and outright muppetry and therefore put a system in place to limit it as much as possible. Unfortunately, there have been 200+ years of weasels enacting regulations, laws, rules, etc specifically to get around the original intent of the document - many of these have not been challenged through the courts and so have become entrenched. Sometimes the court system, including the SC, have own-goaled. Humans are nothing if not imperfect.

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: The government can't ban 'FUCT'

      Most of the US government doesn't even know what it's laws are. There are so many that are simply garbage and left over cruft. It's a good reason why most laws really need an expiration date. Just don't get caught selling spaghetti with a diameter that isn't within the .06" to .11" legal range because that's a violation of Title 21, Section 139.110

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: The government can't ban 'FUCT'

      The government can't ban 'FUCT'

      The government wasn't trying to 'ban' FUCT, it was trying to refuse it registration. An unregistered trademark is still a trademark with all the benefits and responsibilities thereunder, including using it as a trademark, it just lacks the additional benefits of being a registered, vs unregistered, trademark. But it would still be a trademark that could still be used in commerce. It would take a judicial ruling to 'ban' the use of or overturn a trademark, which is not what this case was about. Again, it was about registration, not use or validity, of a trademark.

  12. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    I wonder …

    if someone will trade mark "Fuck Me Shoes". Or is it too common a saying to be trade markable?

  13. Colin Bain

    Not buying

    I am sure they won't miss my business. Personally, I just can't give that message out. For similar reasons I dont patronize the F-t B--t--d food outlet. It's a free country and there folks will be free of me. I guess I'm not in their demographic. I prefer my humour to be a bit more clever than that. And yes, I know I sound patronizing.... that's my right too!

  14. Danny Boyd

    Why no handcuffs on those folks in the picture? Disappointing.

  15. Julifriend

    Good Schiit!

    There's a very good audio company based in California called Schiit. They successfully trademarked their name some time ago. www.schiit.com

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The FCC should be next...where's George Carlin and his "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" when you want him?

    www.verybadwords.com for discussions of them and a few more

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