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You can trademark whatever words you want now

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CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - The U.S. Supreme Court has painted itself into a corner. Two years ago, it held that the First Amendment required the Patent and Trademark Office to register the trademark for a band called the Slants, despite the “offensive” character of the name. Now it has held that the office must register a clothing brand by the designer Erik Brunetti under the name “FUCT,” even though the PTO deemed the mark “immoral” or “scandalous.” Monday’s decision is a big step in the direction of an absolutist conception of free speech.

Although several justices wrote separately to say that they thought trademark law could be tweaked so that the government wouldn’t have to give the coveted “TM” designation to pure vulgarities, it’s far from clear that a majority of justices would uphold such a law if Congress adopted it.

For now, it’s open season for parties seeking trademark protection for essentially anything.

Someone should page Virgil Abloh, the fashion genius of the moment whose brand, Off-White, relies heavily on putting quotation marks around words and adding a superscript TM. Until Congress changes the law and the justices rule on it next time, he can trademark to his heart’s desire.

The Lanham Act, which specifies what can be trademarked, is pretty straightforward — and so is the majority opinion by Justice Elena Kagan in Iancu v. Brunetti. The law prohibits the registration of trademarks that in the view........

© The Japan Times