The FUCT Trademark Saga Concludes
Readers of What’s Up Wednesday were previously told about a small clothing company in Southern California that had been trying, unsuccessfully, to trademark its FUCT clothing brand. The original story written about the founder and his clothing startup can be found at the following link:
Well, it seems that the trademark saga is finally over for Erik Brunetti and his upstart clothing brand (perhaps it shouldn’t be considered an upstart brand since it originated all the way back in 1991). Brunetti started the business out of his bedroom nearly 30 years ago. Over the years, the clothing line has developed enough of a cult following to help sell out in minutes some of the items it has introduced on its website. The popularity of the FUCT clothing line has also resulted in a flood of knock-off articles across eBay and other outlets. Brunetti has sought trademark protections for his line in order to have a better basis for the legal pursuit of counterfeit-goods producers and sellers. But in every effort up to now, his trademark applications have been denied by the US Trademark office – because the FUCT brand name was deemed offensive. So Brunetti proceeded through the court system and eventually his trademark case found its way to the US Supreme Court. The case was heard by the justices and a decision has been made.
The court ruled in a 6-3 split that the brand should not be blocked from trademark protection. The decision came down to the somewhat arbitrary nature of what is considered offensive. Finding something offensive is a value judgement – labeling something like the FUCT brand offensive was ultimately ruled a violation of free speech. Specifically, the court said in its opinion that “government may not discriminate against speech based on the ideas or opinions it conveys”.
Brunetti’s fight to trademark his brand has certainly paid off in this instance. The name he chose is certainly catchy and memorable. He chose to toe the line and he came out the winner. He’ll now have the ability to better protect his company name and clothing designs through the legal system. He won’t be able stop all counterfeit goods (nobody does), but he’ll certainly have more avenues for recourse than were available to him previously.
It’s difficult to gauge how lucrative this decision will be for Brunetti, because in the marketplace, he is still a niche retailer – the decision may not have a significant impact on his bottom line. It will be interesting to watch and see if he capitalizes on this court decision and further grows his brand.