The Trademark Office likes to keep it clean, real clean. On appeal, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board upheld a decision to refuse registration of the mark F**K PROJECT because it was scandalous and immoral.
Giorgia S.R.L., an apparel and accessory design company, filed a trademark registration application for the mark that can be seen herein to cover leather and imitation leather bags and clothing. Giorgia submitted a description stating that the mark consists of the letters “F and K separated by to asteriks (sic)”. Yeah, good rule of thumb, check your spelling on a trademark application because the Trademark Office has no problem calling you out on it. Important to note, the application does not say that the asterisks stand for the letters “U and C”; the dirtiness must be inferred.
Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act permits the Trademark Office to refuse an application for a registration on the grounds that it “consists of or compromises immoral or scandalous matter.” The Trademark Office has held that a mark is scandalous by establishing that it is vulgar. The TTAB’s decision goes to create lengths to establish that the word “fuck” is vulgar and F**K is commonly used in place of the word “fuck”. The TTAB claims that the asterisks do not alter the vulgar meaning but instead highlight it. The TTAB stated that there is nothing identified in the application that give “F**K” a different meaning other than its vulgar one. Giorgia pointed out that $#*! MY DAD SAYS is a registered mark but the TTAB said it is not bound by this decision and doesn’t need to apply the same standard. Quite capricious, I must say. Therefore, the TTAB ruled that refusal to register the mark was proper because euphemisms or alternate spellings of bad words are vulgar.
People have not been pleased that the Trademark Office does not apply the First Amendment when deciding whether to register a trademark. Recently, a Federal Court, while questioning the law, decided that the Trademark Office’s denial of a trademark as disparaging complies with federal standards. This matter was litigated in a case regarding an Asian-American band’s repeated attempts to register the trademark for their band “The Slants”; you can read more about that case here. Further fuel is thrown on this fire with the Trademark Office’s controversial decision to strip the WASHINGTON REDSKINS of its registrations because the name is disparaging. While “vulgar” things can be registered with the Copyright Office, they cannot be registered with the Trademark Office. Doesn’t seem quite equitable and, perhaps, this will change in the future.