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First Amendment Alert: Trademarks

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

CNN reports, "The Supreme Court struck down [today] a provision of federal law that prohibits the registration of "immoral" or "scandalous" trademarks as a violation of the First Amendment.


The justices' ruling clears the way for a clothing designer to apply for a federal trademark for his clothing line called FUCT.


The ruling, which was unanimous in part and 6-3 in part, could open the doors to more requests to register words or phrases that have been considered vulgar, a concern that the court's minority feared.


"We hold that this provision infringes the First Amendment," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion, because it "disfavors certain ideas."


"A law disfavoring 'ideas that offend' discriminates based on viewpoint, in violation of the First Amendment," she wrote.


Justice Kagan was once a student journalist.


This concludes that "immoral" and "scandalous" trademarks are protected by the First Amendment, while student journalists are not. (Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier)


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