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A Streetwear Brand with a FUCT-up Name Just Won Its Supreme Court Case

It might be "scandalous," but it's legal.

by Kelly Vinett
Jun 24 2019, 6:47pm

A streetwear brand with an f-ed up name just got its trademark green-lighted by the Supreme Court.

In a 6-3 ruling by the high court on Monday, the LA-based fashion brand FUCT won federal trademark protection after the Trump administration turned down its trademark application, calling the name too scandalous.

Designer Erik Brunetti, who wanted his company to have a name that echoed its anti-establishment aesthetic, had earlier said the brand name could also be interpreted as an acronym for "Friends U Can Trust.” Brunetti founded FUCT in 1990 alongside his then-partner and legendary skateboarder Natas Kaupas, but he only applied to register the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2011, and sued after being turned down.

The court’s decision Monday condemned a 1905 federal law that banned “scandalous” or “immoral” trademarks.

Though the brand might have found a creative loophole with its choice of spelling, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion that it shouldn’t be illegal to make it a trademark. She said the former law that denies certain trademarks violates the First Amendment because "it disfavors certain ideas."

Restricting certain trademarks is thought to keep people from challenging social norms. It "permits registration of marks that champion society's sense of rectitude and morality, but not marks that denigrate those concepts," said Kagan.

Because the old law never explicitly drew the line at lewd, sexually explicit, or profane trademarks, its basis for restriction was found limited and vague. Instead, the law “covers the universe of immoral or scandalous," which couldn’t prohibit brands like “FUCT” from receiving trademarks.

In Monday’s decision, Kagan wrote, “There are a great many immoral and scandalous ideas in the world (even more than there are swear words).”

Joining Kagan in favor of the ruling were senior Democrat Ruth Bader Ginsburg and four conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who blatantly opposed the ruling, said it will force the trademark office to register “the most vulgar, profane or obscene words and images imaginable.”

Brunetti spoke to Hypebeast in early June about what it would mean to win the ruling: “I’ll be able to shut down the tremendous amount of bootlegging that’s been happening for years.” He added another incentive, “It will also enable me to eventually sell the brand if I so choose.”

In a press release about the decision, Brunnetti wrote, “The decision today was joined by both liberal and conservative justices because they recognize the broader principle at stake: the freedom to express one’s viewpoint even if considered immoral by some.”

Cover: Los Angeles artist Erik Brunetti, the founder of the streetwear clothing company "FUCT," leaves the Supreme Court after his trademark case was argued, in Washington, Monday, April 15, 2019. Brunetti, who says the brand name is an acronym for "Friends U Can't Trust," is seeking help from the high court after he was denied a trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because of a portion of federal law that says officials should not register trademarks that are "scandalous" or "immoral." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)