The United States can grant registration to trademarks with offensive or vulgar language to a certain extent due to the right to freedom of speechAAA IPRIGHT2
The United States can grant registration to trademarks with offensive or vulgar language to a certain extent due to the right to freedom of speech, which is a fundamental right of every American within appropriate limits. In 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the United States would not prohibit the registration of trademarks with language that is considered offensive, vulgar, or contrary to good morals to a certain extent, based on the right to freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental and essential right recognized in many political systems based on democratic freedoms. It allows individuals to express their opinions, thoughts, ideas, and information openly without censorship, restrictions, or obstruction from the government or others.
The right to freedom of speech is guaranteed in various international and national legal documents, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the United Nations and in the constitutions of many countries. However, the right to freedom of speech can also be limited in certain cases, such as violating privacy rights, national security, or posing a threat to public safety.
The right to freedom of speech is reflected in the ability to register trademarks in the United States. Prior to 2019, it would not be surprising for an application to be rejected if it contained violent, vulgar, or morally offensive language. This was because the Lanham Act – the primary trademark law in the United States – allowed the government to reject trademark applications that they deemed “scandalous” or “immoral”.
However, the Supreme Court decided in 2019 that this violated the right to freedom of speech. Since 2019, applicants will no longer face a 0% registration rate, but rather a certain rate based on the specific trademark and the extent to which it violates good morals.
For example, the case of popular singer Lizzo (real name Melissa Viviane Jefferson) and her trademark application for ‘100% That B**tch’ (without asterisks) stirred up controversy in society. Feeling that the rejection was inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision, the singer appealed her case to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB). In February 2023, the TTAB reviewed the case and reversed the initial examiner’s decision by ruling in favor of Lizzo.
According to the TTAB’s perspective, while the phrase “100% That B**tch” is commonly used in the community, it often refers to Lizzo. The singer herself did not create the phrase as many artists are not the ones who create every phrase or title they are known for. Typically, they become associated with certain images or phrases due to fan recognition, which signifies that they and the associated trademark in the USA have gained community recognition.
For these reasons, the TTAB determined that this phrase serves as a trademark for the musician. Thanks to the TTAB’s decision, Lizzo has obtained ownership rights for the trademark. Her application has been filed under Class 25, which means her use of the phrase on clothing items will be protected. Expanding the product category is feasible.
– You could check Required documents of filing trademark in USA here.
– You could see What needs to be done after registering a trademark in US? here.
– You could visit here to see What is use in commerce of filing trademark in USA.
– You could also check here to see Procedure of Trademark in USA.
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