Go ahead and register your scandalous trademark . . . but the Supreme Court will judge your choices

You’re in luck if you sell FUCK ME formalwear, own the NO SHIT diner, or produce HEY ASSHOLE pepper spray. You’ll soon be able to head over to the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and register those trademarks. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled in the Brunetti case that the statutory bars on registering “scandalous” and “immoral” trademarks are unconstitutional.

But you better move quickly . . . A passel of the Justices is not pleased with this outcome. (The moral panic during the oral argument was sort of a red flag.) Continue reading

Pussyfooting around FUCT

Oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday in Iancu v. Brunetti centered on the word FUCT. Well, sort of. As one of the lawyers fussily put it, it centered on “the equivalent of the past participle form of the paradigmatic profane word in our culture.” Right. FUCT.

The case is all about offensive, shocking and profane language. Yet the Justices and the parties’ attorneys pussyfooted around for an hour, steering the argument clear of anything even remotely R-rated. The attitude that there are several words so offensive they cannot be spoken aloud dominated the hearing. It may well dominate the Court’s eventual opinion.

Here’s the backdrop for all of that tiptoeing around those unspeakably naughty words.

Continue reading

Sweary links #14

October already? You know what that means: It’s decorative gourd season, motherfuckers.

gourd_mug_mockup_front-2

Mug via McSweeney’s Store.

*

A retired lecturer in medieval history has found what appears to be the earliest use of fuck. It’s in a 1310 court record, and it’s a surname: Roger Fuckebythenavele. “Experts say name refers to lack of sexual prowess, or gross stupidity.” – Daily Mail. “I’m sort of speechless.” –  Language Log’s Geoffrey Pullum. “The Middle English dictionary needs a fucking update.” – medievalist Piotr Gąsiorowski.

*

“The search for the first ‘fuck’ may be both fascinating and futile — even when we find it, we might not have the context to know what it means.”

Continue reading

Guest post: Trademarks the government doesn’t want you to see

We’re pleased to introduce Strong Language readers to Anne Gilson LaLonde, the author of Gilson on Trademarks, a legal treatise on United States trademark law.  Anne writes and speaks about many different aspects of trademark law, but this topic may well be her favorite.

* * *

Under the federal trademark statute, trademarks that are found to be “scandalous” can’t be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  While this doesn’t stop trademark owners from using these marks, they can’t rely on various legal advantages that come with federal registration.

Continue reading