Klein & Wilson

Four letter words could be trademarked

In today’s marketplace, being noticed counts; even if you have to refer to close cousins of four letter words that are considered “immoral” or “scandalous.” In fact, some business owners (and consumers, obviously) appreciate the play on such words. After all, businesses have a First Amendment right to expressions, even to the public, of words or slogans that others may find offensive.

So when a California-based entrepreneur wanted to trademark the name “fuct” for his clothing line, the U.S. Patent and Trade Commission was apparently offended. It rejected his request based on the prohibition of vulgar word utterances and scandalous marks in the Lanham Act. After an examining attorney rejected the request, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in similar fashion. 

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit disagreed with the USPTO and struck down the agency’s findings. Writing for the majority on the three judge panel, Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore explained that even though there are words and marks that we do not wish to be confronted with in the marketplace, the First Amendment protects private expression, even when the expression may be offensive to the general public. Additionally, the court found that the USPTO offered no substantial government interest for policing offensive speech in this manner.

The court relied heavily on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling where it struck down a disparagement clause that initially prevented an Asian-American rocker from trademarking “The Slants,” for his band.

Nevertheless, the story exemplifies the need for experienced legal counsel when prosecuting a trademark. 

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  1. RATED BY | Super Lawyers | Top 100 | Southern California | SuperLawyers.com
  2. Avvo Rating | 10.0 | SUperb | Top Attorney Litigation
  3. PREEMINENT AV | Martindale-Hubbell | PeerReviewRated
  4. RATED BY | Super Lawyers | Top 50 | Orange County | SuperLawyers.com
  5. Best Lawyers | BEST LAW FIRMS | U.S.NEWS | 2018
  6. KLEIN & WILSON | RECOGNIZED BY | Best Lawyers | 2019
  9. AVVO Client's Choice | Award 2017
  10. OCTLA | Orange County | Trial Lawyers Association | Trial Lawyer Of The Year
  11. The National Trial Lawyers | Top 40 Under 40

Contact Our Attorneys Today

Please call the law office at 949-478-0521 or fill out the form below to arrange a consultation with a lawyer.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Get Started

Klein & Wilson
4770 Von Karman Avenue
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Phone: 949-478-0521
Fax: 949-631-3703
Newport Beach Law Office Map

Firm Office