Anytime you doubt the usefulness of a good trademark and planning ahead, remember that Donald Trump filed a trademark application for "Make America Great Again" in 2012. But getting what you want can take more than paperwork. You might have to go to court, as designer Eric Brunetti did to get a trademark for his "Fuct" clothing line.
And not just to court, but to the Supreme Court.
It wasn't one of those cases where a David had to sue a Goliath to keep a big rival from poaching intellectual property. No, this time the beef was with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which has refused to grant his application every time he's tried during the last 20 years he's sold his line.
The problem Brunetti has faced is copycats that create knockoffs of his hoodies, T-shirts, and baggy pants. That means lost sales. He could say he wished his competitors had Fuct-off, but they already did.
Here's an example of a response he received from the Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board: "the Office maintains this term is 'vulgar, profane and scandalous slang.'"
Apparently these people don't get out much. Brunetti's lawyers argued that Fuct is a coined word that doesn't mean anything other than the brand.
As noted in Bloomberg, the Patent Office allowed trademarks on "fcuk," "wtf is up with my lovelife?!," and "fword."
And what about the television show Schitt's Creek? Oh, that has a registered trademark in the U.S. for a number of categories, including clothing.
Hmm, maybe there could be a meeting of the two: I went up Schitt's Creek and now I'm Fuct.
And nary a dirty word in site, just things that may sound familiar. This is starting to sound like a bad Bevis and Butt-head episode.
An amusing part may be how the Supreme Court and all the lawyers in attendance tried to refer to the brand name without actually saying it, as NPR reported:
Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart referred to the brand name as a "profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity and perhaps the paradigmatic word of profanity in our language."
Why are some things allowed and others not? It's tough to say. There doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason, other than concern that kids somewhere might be shocked. (Have they listened to kids talking recently?)
If anyone can currently rip off Brunetti's work now, how does refusing a trademark help reduce the chance of exposing the soundalike to the pearl-clutching crowd? One might think the chance was even higher when anyone could get into the business.
A decision by the Court is expected sometime by summer. Depending on how things go, Brunetti might think of a new line of clothing: Skrewed.