Iancu v. Brunetti

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: June 24, 2019
  • Case #: 18-302
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which THOMAS, GINSBURG, ALITO, GORSUCH and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., filed a concurring opinion. ROBERTS, C. J., and BREYER, J., filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BREYER, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

The prohibition against immoral or scandalous trademarks in 15 U.S.C. §1052(a) is viewpoint based discrimination and violates the First Amendment.

Respondent is an artist with a clothing line with the trademark “FUCT,” which is pronounced as the four letters spelled out. Petitioner found that this violated the Lanham Act’s prohibition against marks that are of immoral or scandalous matter. 15 U.S.C. §1052(a). Petitioner concluded that Respondent’s trademark was vulgar and failed its test of whether the general public would find it offensive. Respondent brought a facial challenge to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which found that the prohibition violated the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court previously held that the immoral or scandalous prohibition is viewpoint-based discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. The Court previously struck down a similar prohibition against disparaging trademarks for the same reason in Matal v. Tam, 582 U.S.C. ___ (2017). The government may not regulate speech based on the ideas or opinions it conveys. The Court rejected Petitioner’s argument that the statute was viewpoint-neutral because it found that the statutory language on its face regulated trademarks based on whether they expressed generally accepted views on moral topics.  The Court reiterated that the “‘immoral or scandalous’ bar is substantially overbroad,” and violates the First Amendment. AFFIRMED.

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