Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by cmn32480 on Saturday October 01 2016, @12:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the who-defines-offensive dept.

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would decide, once and for all, whether federal intellectual property regulators can refuse to issue trademarks with disparaging or inappropriate names.

At the center of the issue is a section of trademark law that actually forbids the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from approving a trademark if it "consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute."

The case before the justices, which they will hear sometime in the upcoming term beginning in October, concerns the Portland-based Asian-American rock band called the Slants. Previously, decisions have come down on both sides regarding trademarking offensive names. The most notable denial is likely the name of the NFL's Washington franchise, "Redskins." But lesser known denials include "Stop the Islamization of America," "The Christian Prostitute," "AMISHHOMO," "Mormon Whiskey," "Ride Hard Retard," "Abort the Republicans," and "Democrats Shouldn't Breed."

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/09/can-you-trademark-an-offensive-name-or-not-us-supreme-court-to-decide/


Original Submission

 
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:04PM (#408746)

    Trademark is the opposite of free speech, its the government granting a monopoly on speech. Any arguments for giving out those monopolies can't rely on the first amendment. And the part of the constitution that gives the government the right to issue trademarks - commerce clause - doesn't place any limits on how the government goes about it.

    Starting Score:    0  points
    Moderation   +1  
       Insightful=1, Total=1
    Extra 'Insightful' Modifier   0  

    Total Score:   1  
  • (Score: 2) by wisnoskij on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:09PM

    by wisnoskij (5149) <reversethis-{moc ... ksonsiwnohtanoj}> on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:09PM (#408749)

    That does not make any sense. In a very real way the government saying, you cannot name your product/company X is an attack on the first amendment. The government is not supposed to decide trademarks on moral, "what words/phrases are we going to allow you to say", grounds. That is not why we have a Trademark system.

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:20PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:20PM (#408754)

      Its anti MPCC-like tactic

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Production_Code [wikipedia.org]

      For the sake of argument lets say an evangelical church wanted to eliminate the word "fuck" from the american vocabulary.

      They could trademark "fuck" and then license it at very favorable rates (like a trillion dollars per use)

      Ta Da, no more "fuck"

      Its an anti-censorship law.

      There is also the intellectual level argument. Surely, Plutarch, if he were alive today, deserves some variety of government protection. Me stubbing my toe and reflexively exclaiming "fuck" doesn't seem worthy of government protection. I mean you need a line somewhere otherwise people are going to trademark farts.

      • (Score: 2) by wisnoskij on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:07PM

        by wisnoskij (5149) <reversethis-{moc ... ksonsiwnohtanoj}> on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:07PM (#408774)

        > They could trademark "fuck" and then license it at very favorable rates (like a trillion dollars per use)
        > Ta Da, no more "fuck"

        That is not how Trademark law works.

      • (Score: 2) by quintessence on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:12PM

        by quintessence (6227) on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:12PM (#408776)

        Trademarks are specific to products/services. Trademarking "fuck" would have no meaning unless it was associated with such.

        Not to mention your mythical evangelical church would have to spend a great deal of money to defend said trademark. Linoleum was once trademarked and has lost its standing.

        Me stubbing my toe and reflexively exclaiming "fuck" doesn't seem worthy of government protection

        Actually I can think of nothing more worthy of government protection than your natural utterance to pain. If there was anything more encompassing of free expression, I can't think of it ("in some sections of hell you aren't even allowed to scream").

        This is the government attempting to avoid controversy by the very controversial act of regulating speech. Sambo's was trademarked previously. Social norms change, justifications for censorship do not.

        • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday October 01 2016, @08:18PM

          by HiThere (866) on Saturday October 01 2016, @08:18PM (#408866) Journal

          Yes, but they also aren't supposed to be descriptive.

          So the proposed trademark could only regulate the use of the term in trade which did not involve fucking. (I don't know whether metaphorical use would count.)

          --
          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
          • (Score: 2) by art guerrilla on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:07PM

            by art guerrilla (3082) on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:07PM (#409060)

            welllll...
            again, as alluded to, that both ain't how it works, nor what it was intended to protect (what it ACTUALLY 'protects' as a matter of the korporatocracy getting it's tentacles into it, is another thing)...
            first, (EXCEPTING that both the patent and trademark offices' new ! improved ! approach is to 'approve' *everything*, and let the kourts sort it out in the wash), you are *supposed* to be approving a specific use and appearance of a trademarked brand: it is NOT just a 'trademark' on 'fuck' itself, but on 'fuck' within the context of a brand or model of 'fuck's potato chips', or 'fuck's mechanical service', or 'fucks massage parlor'...
            further, this is in combination with a specific type or theme of trade dress, in the form of packaging, colors, graphics, logos, etc... again, NOT just 'fuck' for fuck's sake... 8^) (again, NOTWITHSTANDING the apparent capitulation of the PTO to 'approve' trademarks on colors, etc... much like copyright on algorithms/programs, they are simply wrongheaded...)
            secondly, the 'protection' is *supposed* to inure to the *consumer*: the problem trademark is solving, is that unscrupulous bidness types (who knew any existed !) might either *directly* use *your* trademark to deceive customers, and/or use such closely similar names/packaging to fool consumers into thinking they are getting *GENUINE* 'Fucks Widgets', when they are getting knockoff (presumably inferior) 'Flicks Widgets' w/ the same packaging/logos/colors...
            not a bad summation of the situation, but there is a little more to it than that...
            again, the harsh reality is (similar to much of The Law and simple morality), the korporatocracy has co-opted The System such that trademarks/patents/copyrights (so-called IP) has become another cudgel to bludgeon people and shake down money...
            based on a true story...

            • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Sunday October 02 2016, @06:59PM

              by HiThere (866) on Sunday October 02 2016, @06:59PM (#409118) Journal

              The article was, I believe, about trademarks rather than about patents. The two shouldn't be mixed as the rules are quite different.

              --
              Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
              • (Score: 2) by art guerrilla on Sunday October 02 2016, @08:10PM

                by art guerrilla (3082) on Sunday October 02 2016, @08:10PM (#409130)

                thank you, but no thank you: i was CLEARLY referring to trademarks in particular in my remarks, BUT ALSO lumped them in with the other SO-CALLED 'IP/Intellectual Property' in an editorial comment in that they are ALL out of control and used for the purposes of the korporatocracy, NOT to protect us 99%...
                i am very well aware of the differences (in point of fact, you should very well ask that of the respective gummint departments which have obviously and egregiously gone far beyond their charge, and have perverted the system to benefit the korporatocracy), but the overarching point is they are all similarly abused by those who have loads of hungry lawyers on staff, NOT to protect little suzy etsy...

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by butthurt on Saturday October 01 2016, @03:40PM

        by butthurt (6141) on Saturday October 01 2016, @03:40PM (#408803) Journal

        The UK has a similar prohibition:

        Marks which offend this section of the Act fall broadly into three types: those with criminal connotations, those with religious connotations and explicit/taboo signs. Marks offending public policy are likely to offend accepted principles of morality, e.g. illegal drug terminology, although the question of public policy may not arise against marks offending accepted principles of morality, e.g. taboo swear words.

        Anyone can challenge such trademarks in court; this happened with the trademark "FCUK" which had been granted to French Connection Limited, a chain of clothing shops. The trademark was upheld:

        [...] the intrinsic qualities of the mark FCUK are not such as to render it objectionable. It is not the swear word even though it can be used, and has been used, to evoke the swear word. Accordingly the generally accepted moral principle prohibiting the use of swear words does not apply to it.

        -- http://camtrademarks.com/index.php?q=node/28 [camtrademarks.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @10:32PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @10:32PM (#408886)

        > They could trademark "fuck" and then license it at very favorable rates (like a trillion dollars per use)

        That's not how trademarks work.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @01:52PM (#408767)

      > That does not make any sense. In a very real way the government saying, you cannot name your product/company X is an attack on the first amendment.

      That is 100% false. You are free to name your company or product anything you like.
      You just won't get the privilege of the government stopping anyone else from using the same name.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:24PM (#408777)

        But why? If trademarks are to exist at all, what valid reason does the government have to say that certain trademarks which contain "offensive" words are not valid? Something being offensive to some people isn't a valid reason to deny a trademark.

        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:33PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @02:33PM (#408779)

          > But why? Something being offensive to some people isn't a valid reason to deny a trademark.

          But why not? Something intentionally chosen to demean and intimidate some people is a valid reason to deny special privileges.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @03:18PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @03:18PM (#408795)

            No, it's not, and trademarks were never supposed to be used in this way. Personally, I find all trademarks related to religion highly offensive and I demand that they all be revoked. My subjective sensitivities need to be catered to.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @04:37PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @04:37PM (#408822)

              I'm pretty sure you've already got your wish in that religions can not be trademarked.

              As for being offended, tough shit. You taking offense isn't the same thing as being demeaned or insulted no matter how much you wish to expand the definition.

              • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @05:21PM

                by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @05:21PM (#408831)

                I use the word nigger regularly. It's not my problem if niggers take offence to it.

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @06:00PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @06:00PM (#408842)

                  Use it all you want. You just can't trademark protection for it.

                  • (Score: 2) by Pslytely Psycho on Sunday October 02 2016, @11:49PM

                    by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Sunday October 02 2016, @11:49PM (#409182)

                    Until1926 there was a product called Nigger Hair pipe tobacco. In that year they changed it to Bigger Hair.

                    They are collectors items now. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't fly today, and apparently became taboo long before I would of believed.

                    --
                    Trump succeeds in making Nixon look respectable, Mission Accomplished!
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:51AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:51AM (#408939)

                Being demeaned or insulted are not good reasons to deny trademarks, either. And keep in mind that the reason that being demeaned or insulted is seen as a bad thing is because sometimes people take... offense. So it's about offensiveness in the end, which is 100% subjective.

                I'm pretty sure you've already got your wish in that religions can not be trademarked.

                Religions, maybe. But if you combine some religious terminology with other words, trademarks may be possible.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @05:32PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @05:32PM (#408836)

              It pleases me to hear whiney pusses whine about being offended. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, almost like petting a purring kitty sitting on my chest. Whine away, you little puss.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:53AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:53AM (#408942)

                Tell that to the government, which apparently wants to deny 'offensive', 'demeaning', and 'insulting' trademarks.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @09:12PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01 2016, @09:12PM (#408872)

      With trademarks the government isn't saying whether or not you are allowed to say it. They are deciding whether you are the only one who is allowed to say it.

      Big difference.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:56AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02 2016, @01:56AM (#408944)

        That's true, but the fact is that trademarks currently exist. They shouldn't be denying trademarks based on subjective criteria such as how much offense they might cause. If they're going to do that, then we should abolish trademarks completely, for they have shown their bias.