Case of the Brand That Sounds Profane Heads to Supreme Court

Erik Brunetti has long tried to get a trademark for his Fuct streetwear
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2019 6:10 PM CDT
Case of the Brand That Sounds Profane Heads to Supreme Court
Will Fuct get ... well, you know.   (Getty Images/SeanPavonePhoto)

Nearly 30 years ago, Erik Brunetti, along with skateboarder Natas Kaupas, founded a streetwear company with a name that, depending on how it's said, could sound profane. They started Fuct with no major issues, save for the trademark they tried to get for the name—one that the Patent and Trademark Office initially denied. Per NBC News, the office did so based on a 100-year-old section of federal law that calls for it to turn away registration attempts for any trademarks deemed "scandalous" or "immoral"; "Fuct" sounded enough like the past tense of a certain curse word to qualify. But because "scandalous" was exactly what Brunetti was going for, he fought that office's decision and won, with a federal appeals court ruling that the provision took away his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Now the Trump administration has hauled the case all the way up to the Supreme Court, asking it to back up the original decision, since it's not as if Brunetti hasn't been able to call his clothing line by the name he wanted, and to sell his product. Brunetti argues that the government is inconsistent on how it handles the "perceived offensiveness" of different trademark applications—he points out, for example, French Connection UK's trademark, FCUK, has been approved. The case will come before the Supreme Court bench on April 15, with a decision to be handed down by the end of June—and Brunetti is ready. "I don't concede, ever," he tells GQ. "It's just not in me. Anyone that knows me or has litigated with me knows I will fight to the end." Read the GQ story for more on Brunetti's long battle to get the Fuct name filed with the PTO. (Read more freedom of speech stories.)

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