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Can You Trademark Something “Scandalous”?

Can You Trademark Something “Scandalous”?

For decades, the Lanham Act prohibited trademarks that were “immoral” or “scandalous.” The law left it up to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to determine when an application involved a scandalous mark, and the USPTO would deny trademark applications accordingly. Now, however, an applicant has appealed his denial all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), and SCOTUS effectively struck down the ban on scandalous trademarks.

In the case of Iancu v. Brunetti, a clothing designer appealed the repeated denial of his application to trademark the name of his clothing brand, which was the acronym F.U.C.T. The USPTO had been denying his applications since the 1990s based on “scandalous” content. SCOTUS, however, ruled in a 6-3 decision that the law banning immoral or scandalous trademark violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Trademark Applications

For now, the USPTO cannot base denials on that specific unconstitutional provision of the Lanham Act. This means that many people who were previously denied might try to resubmit applications. However, you still cannot trademark phrases or words that are already commonly used. This means that people cannot get trademarks for common “bad” words or obscenities.

In addition, the SCOTUS ruling did nothing to stop Congress from passing a new, narrower law that might pass constitutional muster and limit trademarks of questionable taste. We will watch and see what happens in the wake of this important court decision.

Learn More from an Intellectual Property Lawyer in Orlando

At Daniel Law Offices, P.A., we assist clients with all types of patent and trademark applications and appeals. If you would like to discuss the services of our Orlando intellectual property attorney, do not hesitate to schedule your consultation. Call 866.377.2836 or contact us online today.

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