CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS – The U.S. Supreme Court has painted itself into a corner. Two years ago, it held that the First Amendment required the Patent and Trademark Office to register the trademark for a band called the Slants, despite the “offensive” character of the name. Now it has held that the office must register a clothing brand by the designer Erik Brunetti under the name “FUCT,” even though the PTO deemed the mark “immoral” or “scandalous.” Monday’s decision is a big step in the direction of an absolutist conception of free speech.
Although several justices wrote separately to say that they thought trademark law could be tweaked so that the government wouldn’t have to give the coveted “TM” designation to pure vulgarities, it’s far from clear that a majority of justices would uphold such a law if Congress adopted it.
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