Listen: U.S. justices watch their language as they consider profane trademarks
"Chain at the supreme court today. The issue was bad language, specifically can the government refused to grant trademark protection for brand names that include profanity the immediate problem for the court was how to discuss the issue without using the actual words how to discuss the F word, for instance, without actually saying the F word, which is a challenge that NPR Legal Affairs correspondent Nina totenberg faces in this report at the center of the case is a casual clothing line marketed under the name FU CT view can pronounce it yourself the line designed by Erik Brunetti is mainly hoodies loose pants shorts and tee shirt all with those letters prominently displayed Brunetti opened his line in nineteen ninety aimed at twenty somethings. He's been trying since then to get his brand. Trademark so that he can go after copycats go to EBay and you'll see lots of counterfeits to Amazon you'll see a lot lots of counterfeits in short. He says the knockoffs are costing him money. If I win I will pursue the counterfeiters to stop them for making my product the US government patent and trademark office. However has consistently turned him down contending that those letters violate the federal statute the bars trademark protection for immoral shocking. Offensive and scandalous word Brunetti case got a boost two years ago when the supreme court ruled that an Asian American band calling itself the slant could not be denied trademark protection. Because it used a disparaging term dealing with the brand name F C CT proved a bit more daunting in the supreme court chamber today deputy solicitor general Malcolm Stewart referred to it as quote, a profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity and perha-. The Pera dig Matic word of profanity in our language the government. He maintained can deny trademark protection for that word. The justices pointed to a chart showing which terms if it granted trademarks by the government, and which head not most are not suitable for a general audience suffice to say that while few CT did not win trademark approval. FC UK did. And so did the well known Brin foo bar the word crap was registered trademark name seventy times. But the S word was consistently denied so Justice Ginsburg asked how does the trademark office define what is scandalous shocking or offensive do twenty year olds generally find f you see t to be shocking or scandalous, probably not see the government Stewart. But he said the term would still be shocking or offensive to a substantial segment of the population. Justice scores such pointed to the chart declaring that it was hard. To see why certain trademarks with dirty words were approved and others were denied Justice Alito asked what would happen? When really dirty words were at issue and how about racial slurs. S Justice prior those are more like swearwords their insults that sting remembered by those who are targeted Stewart replied that. Because of course decision in the slants case most racial slurs are now approved, but as for the most offensive slur the N word for now, it's still out representing F U C T designer Brunetti lawyer John summer didn't have an easy time. Either Justice briar, why isn't the government have the right to say you can use this language in your brand name. But the government doesn't want to be associated with it. By granting trademark protection. What I'm worried about? He said is that if a racial slur is trademarked, it will appear as a product name on every bus where it's advertised it'll be on newsstands where children and others will see it. That's not the audience. Mr. Brunetti is appealing to replied lawyer summer chief Justice Roberts. But that may not be the only audience he reaches lawyer summer return to the language of the statute arguing that if offensiveness is the standard for turning down a trademark steak and shake can't be registered either. Because quote, a substantial portion of Americans believe that eating beef is immoral decision. And the case is expected by"