WASHINGTON June 24, 2019 – The Supreme Court today ruled that a prohibition on the federal registration of trademarks deemed too “immoral” or “scandalous” violates the First Amendment. The ruling came in Iancu v. Brunetti, a case brought by an artist, Erik Brunetti, who founded a streetwear brand in 1990 and sought to trademark “FUCT” in connection with his clothing line. Brunetti’s application to register FUCT was refused.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that the prohibition against registering trademarks that are deemed too “immoral . . . or scandalous,” is viewpoint-based and that under the First Amendment the government may not regulate private expression based on viewpoint.
Emerson Sykes, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, issued the following comment in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling:
“This ruling is 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.’ That is, at its heart, government suppression of speech based on the viewpoint expressed. It is also, as the Supreme Court today reaffirmed, unconstitutional.”
The ACLU’s amicus brief can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/iancu-v-brunetti-amicus-brief.
Additional information about the case is here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/iancu-v-brunetti.