SCOTUS hears arguments on vulgar trademarks and the First Amendment

On April 15, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Iancu v. Brunetti.
 
Erik Brunetti tried registering a trademark for his clothing brand but was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which said that the trademark violated the Lanham Act. The act states that a trademark can be refused when it “consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter.”
 
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with the office’s initial decision not to grant the trademark. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that denying Brunetti’s trademark violated his First Amendment right to free speech.
 
The director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office appealed this decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
 
The Supreme Court also heard arguments in Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian on the same day. Iancu v. Brunetti is one of five cases from the Federal Circuit that will be heard during the Supreme Court’s October 2018-2019 term. During the term, the court will hear a total of 75 cases.
 



About the author

Kristen Smith

Kristen Smith is an associate editor at Ballotpedia and can be reached at kristen.smith@ballotpedia.org

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