I’m very excited to be a new contributor to Strong Language, after my two previous salacious guest posts on scandalous trademarks. I’ve been the author of Gilson on Trademarks, a treatise on U.S. trademark law, since 2006, and I’m delighted to make this foray into sweary territory. Just don’t tell my parents.
Now, on to our story. Engine 15 Brewing Company applied to register the trademark NUT SACK DOUBLE BROWN ALE for beer. An attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused registration on the ground that the mark was scandalous, meaning that it would offend “a substantial composite of the general public.” The applicant appealed, putting the ball in the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s court. Here’s the beer’s label, which the owner did not try to register:
Before we see how the Board ruled, though, let’s start the ball rolling by looking at the USPTO’s record on testicles, scrotum and related slang terms.
In my work as a name developer I’ve yet to encounter a client who’s amused by riffs on swear words. But not all companies are taboo-averse, as I learned when I began looking into the uses of motherfucker in brand names.
OK, not literal motherfucker. (Not yet, anyway.) But close soundalikes? All over the motherfucking place. It turns out that a bunch of people in charge of brand naming have independently concluded that rhyming bowdlerizations of the mother of all taboo words are novel and distinctive and high-fucking-larious. Sometimes they’re right.