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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/


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  • (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.

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

    by wisnoskij (5149) <{jonathonwisnoski} {at} {gmail.com}> 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.