The USPTO’s Sweary Trademark Stockpile

After my latest post on the rejection of FUCK as a registered trademark for apparel, I offer all you aficionados of sweary trademarks another roundup of registrations.

Around 100 FUCK-formative trademarks are registered at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). That’s not including a bunch of sanitized-ish FOX, FVCKs, and similar close calls. In addition to TOM FORD FUCKING FABULOUS — the derivation of which was explored fabulously by my fellow Strong Language contributor Nancy Friedman — other registered fucking marks include:

  • FUCK IT! for “noodle-based prepared meals”
  • GOOD FUCKING for wine and other alcoholic beverages
  • GET THE FUCK OUT OF BED for coffee beans
  • FUCK PROOF for mascara

The following design mark is registered for podcast productions, which the producers intriguingly describe as “a true crime comedy podcast about cults, murder and other generally fucked up stuff”:

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USPTO Still Refuses to Give a FUCK

For decades, it would have been a complete waste of your time to apply to register FUCK at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Same with F*CK, FXCK, F CK, FUK, FUX, FUHKIT, and the like. Images of a raised middle finger? Also entirely out of the question.

Then, in 2019, the Supreme Court struck down the statutory bar on registering “scandalous” trademarks. That decision opened the door to all sorts of fucking shit on the trademark register, in the name of free speech.

Or did it?

Erik Brunetti, the plaintiff who won at the Supreme Court and ultimately registered FUCT, then tried to register plain old FUCK. In June of 2021, an examining attorney refused Brunetti’s application for FUCK for sunglasses, cell phone cases, jewelry, a variety of types of bags, and retail services. Many of the same goods for which he’d already registered FUCT. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) – essentially the appellate court of the USPTO – has agreed with that conclusion.

So scandalous trademarks are generally registrable, but FUCK isn’t? What the actual . . . heck?

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Smells like … Fucking Fabulous

More than a decade ago, I was hired by a large US retailer to develop names for a new perfume the retailer was introducing. There was no actual fragrance for me to sniff, or even a list of ingredients—just a concept and a target audience. The “juice,” as it’s called in the business, would come later.

A few years after that project I attended a talk by a fragrance-industry consultant who told the audience that most perfumes are created that way now: first a mood board, then a name, and then, finally, the contents of the bottle.

Most perfumes. But not all. Not, for example, Fucking Fabulous, a unisex fragrance launched in 2017 by American fashion designer Tom Ford. In this case, the name came last.

The official line from the Tom Ford brand is that Fucking Fabulous is “undeniably the most straightforward name for a beautiful scent.” It’s a little too straightforward for many retailers. Bluemercury, an upscale beauty chain, bowdlerizes it as F’ing Fabulous (see image). Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman Marcus just call it Fabulous, while depicting the bottle with the full name. Sephora, by contrast, minces no words: It’s Fucking all the way.

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Visual Swears 2: Electric Fuckaloo

Back in 2015 I wrote about visual swears in film, where profanity appears on the screen rather than on the soundtrack. The films featured in that post were The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Blade II, Shoot ’Em Up, Runaway Train, and Sorry to Bother You. Since then I’ve gathered a fuckload more.

Visual swears can have all sorts of motivations for filmmakers: humour, attitude, character type or mood, place detail, meta-commentary, and so on. After all, they’re deliberately built into a film’s production design – unless it’s a documentary, in which case they’re still selected in the framing and editing.

The first film below happens to be a documentary, and a great one: Dark Days (2000), which explores the lives of people living in a disused New York subway tunnel. One of them labels a makeshift toilet SHIT SPOT, perhaps for both informational and comedic reasons:

Front view of a makeshift toilet, with open seat balanced on some poles over a bucket. The inside lid has text that says, in all capitals, 'Shit spot' and an arrow pointing down.

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“Let’s go, Brandon”

Was it a misinterpretation? A well-meaning reporter’s deft attempt to avoid a Federal Communications Commission fine for airing “obvious profanity”? An example of the perfidious mainstream media’s pro-Democrat bias?

Or was it something else entirely?

Here’s what we know: On October 2, as 28-year-old racecar driver Brandon Brown was being interviewed about his winning race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, some people in the stands were chanting “Fuck Joe Biden!” (What provoked the political chant at a nonpolitical gathering? Unclear, but it had already been well documented, along with the #FJB hashtag, both on- and offline.)

NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast either heard or wanted to hear something different:

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