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Can 'FUCT' be trademarked? Supreme Court hears First Amendment case

Melodie Jeng/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Monday could turn out to be, well ... downright vulgar.

On the justices' docket is the case of "FUCT," a clothing line founded by Los Angeles fashion designer Erik Brunetti. The company is fighting for trademark protection after the federal government refused to register the name, calling it "scandalous" and "immoral."

Brunetti says the brand is pronounced by saying each letter: "F-U-C-T" and is meant to be "thought-provoking."

He reportedly says it stands for "Friends You Can Trust."

A federal appeals court sided with FUCT, saying that, while the name is vulgar, federal trademark law's restriction on scandalous and immoral trademarks is a violation of free speech under the First Amendment.

The government argues that the "scandalous and immoral" standard is viewpoint-neutral -- applies to everyone seeking a trademark -- and is a reasonable condition to impose.

Brunetti notes in court documents, however, that the standard has been inconsistently applied and is highly subjective. For example, the terms "FCUK," "THE F WORD," and "F'D" were all approved for trademarks while "F U," "EFFU" and "FVCKED" were not.

In 2017, the Supreme Court struck down a similar part of federal trademark law -- one which had banned trademark registration for "disparaging" language. The justices said, in a unanimous opinion, that "giving offense is a viewpoint" protected by the First Amendment.

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