Tag Archives: Lanham Act

Ethics Alarms Reader Poll: Will The SCOTUS Decision on “Fuct” Be Unanimous?

It should be. It’s amazing to me that this issue has to take up the time of the Supreme Court, it’s so obvious.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review that case of Iancu v. Brunetti, and decide whether the Lanham’s Act’s ban on “immoral” and “scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had refused to register a trademark for a line of clothing called “FUCT,” reasoning that “FUCT is the past tense” of a vulgar word and is “therefore scandalous,” a federal appeals court said. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had struck down the ban on scandalous and immoral trademarks in December 2017,  but clothing designer and artist Erik Brunetti had agreed that the Supreme Court should hear the case even though he had won.  The cert petitions are here and here.

The Supreme Court struck down another provision of the Lanham Act in June 2017,  when it held that the ban on “disparaging” trademarks violated the First Amendment. The case, Matal v. Tam, was filed by an Asian-American rock band that wanted to trademark the name the Slants. The vote was 8-0 because Justice Neil M. Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. That decision also squashed efforts begun by Democrats and the Obama Administration to force the Washington Redskins to give up their “offensive” team nickname. The team’s trademarks had been cancelled in 2014 following complaints from “offended” non-football fans and a small minority of Native Americans. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Court,”It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”  The opinion rejected the government’s argument that protected trademarks become a form of government, rather than private, speech. Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Rights

Unethical Web Site Of The Month: No Hate Speech Movement

hand over mouth

Right before the Paris terrorist attack on “Charlie Hebdo” I was going to post about No Hate Speech and decided, “Eh, this is too stupid.” Then, reflecting upon it in the light of the occurrences in subsequent days, I realized most of the many, primarily  young people, mostly well-meaning, sensitive, loving individuals who are represented on this almost unnavigable website—I hate that— would be making excuses for the Islamic terrorists who executed the French cartoonists, since by their definition, they engaged in “hate speech.”  ( “Of course terrorism is wrong, but...”)  They ended it too, didn’t they? At least they ended those particular speakers.

Free speech is being whittled away by the attempts to define free speech as excluding “hate.” Democratic Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts—you know, that cradle of freedom, democracy, protestm ringing words, and me—has  introduced legislation calling for the government to investigate “hate speech” on broadcast, cable, and Internet outlets. As Alan Derschowitz noted, the effort and the logic surrounding the bill endangers liberty:

“It is a worthy effort, but my prediction is that it either leads to the conclusion government cannot do it, or that they will do it and that will infringe on First Amendment rights. Governments are trying to also make changes to hate speech law and debating the issue in Canada, at the United Nations, and even right now in Israel. It is a worldwide trend, but it is a really dangerous trend.”

I guess because Derschowitz is an upstanding Democrat, he can’t bring himself to say that it is not a worthy effort. It is an irresponsible trend, with a campaign that depends on ignorance, historical amnesia, naivete and hypocrisy. I was trying to remember why I, last year, allowed a passionate and prolific commenter who was prone to rash and obscene language, often attacking other commenters. NOW I recall: This was the reason. The movement to censor “offensive” speech is a leap onto Markey’s slippery, censorious slope. Hate is a legitimate, if ugly sentiment, and it has its place. That place is in our heads, and sometimes, out of our mouths or pens. You don’t like it?  I’m listening. I lost a lot of readers who were offended by Scott’s remarks. Well, I decided that that the ethical thing was to let those who objected 1) learn not read his comments or 2) talk him out of it. Continue reading

43 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society