The US Supreme Court takes up Monday the government’s refusal to register a trademark by a clothing line named “Fuct,” and arguments should be, well, salty.
The case pits a provision of US trademark law that allows the government to deny requests on the basis of “immoral” or “scandalous” words against the bedrock principles of free speech enshrined in the Constitution.
It all started with provocateur, artist and designer Erik Brunetti, who founded the streetwear brand in 1990. It rhymes with plucked.
Under the label, he has since freely sold clothing with anti-religious, anti-government slogans and motifs, often parodying pop culture.
But in 2011, authorities refused to register “Fuct” at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), citing a provision that dates back to 1905.
Brunetti, feeling that his rights had been violated, took his fight to the courts.
In December 2017, a federal appeals court ruled in his favor. According to its findings, the law invoked violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution that guarantees free speech.
But the administration of President Donald Trump then asked the top bench to give a final ruling on the matter.
– Dog poop –
The provision in question “does not restrict respondent’s ability to express himself, through use of his mark or otherwise, but simply denies him the advantages associated with federal trademark registration,” the US administration has argued.
“The board concluded that the mark was vulgar and therefore unregistrable.”
Yet vulgarity plays an important role in society, according to the Cato Institute, which has backed Brunetti in the fight.
“A sentence like, ‘Will you pick up your dog’s shit, and stop him from pissing on my roses!’ would not mean the same thing if the profanity were replaced by politesse,” the libertarian think tank argued.
And the 1905 law is applied in a “systematically inconsistent and arbitrary way,” said law professors Barton Beebe and Jeanne Fromer in an argument transmitted to Supreme Court.
They note, for example, that the fashion brand PHUC — which sounds the same as the swear word in question — got a trademark.
– Censorship of ideas? –
The way Brunetti sees it, the seemingly capricious nature of authorities’ decision-making is a way to censor ideas they dislike — noting that the USPTO in its rejection of his application stated he had sold clothes with “revolutionary themes, proudly subversive graphics and in-your-face imagery.”
“His assaults on American culture critique capitalism, government, religion and pop culture,” it added.
Brunetti has asked the Supreme Court to apply the same reasoning it did in a 2017 case when it ruled that an Asian-American band could trademark its name “The Slants” despite its racist connotations.
“We have said time and again that ‘the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers,'” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote in that ruling, citing previous decisions.
Stefanik voters turning on GOP lawmaker after she threw away her credibility to defend Trump
Over the course of the impeachment hearings, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) has gone from a relative backbencher who sells herself as a moderate to voters in Upstate New York, to a theatrical partisan grandstanding for President Donald Trump and a top target of ire from Democrats.
But according to Politico, at least some of her voters appear turned off by her new stance.
"While Stefanik once able to strike a delicate balance between her Republican identity and her positions on issues like climate change, some think those earlier convictions are gone, like Phillip Paige, a former Stefanik backer and a member of SUNY Potsdam’s College Republicans," wrote Politico's Anna Gronewald. "A native of the 21st district’s Madrid, New York, Paige said he started to lose faith in Stefanik when she began supporting Trump as the party’s nominee in 2016. Paige supported John Kasich’s candidacy in that election. 'A lot of her boots-on-the-ground young Republican crowd has really become quite disillusioned,' he said. 'We saw her as what we thought the future of the Republican Party was and that really has been disproven. Unless, maybe the future of the Republican party is Donald Trump.'"
DOJ employees urged to revolt against Bill Barr for throwing IG report ‘in the trash’ to defend Trump
On MSNBC's "AM Joy," former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne excoriated Attorney General William Barr for his partisan suppression of the inspector general's conclusions about the FBI's Russia investigation.
"Here's the problem. The inspector general has already found that the — the investigation was not motivated in the way that Bill Barr is saying it is, and he's directly taking all the work of all the people and he's throwing it in the trash," said Alksne. "And he's added this other layer of an investigation and now he's broken all the rules, because one of the rules in an investigation is you don't talk about it in the middle, and he's done that. And it's a very threatening thing to the person who did the initial investigation, and it's also a way of putting his thumb on the scale with the guy who's doing the followup investigation, [U.S. Attorney John] Durham. He was talked into issuing a press release that was completely improper."
GOP ridiculed for hyping Ohio anti-impeachment protest — and only a handful of Trump supporters showed
The official Twitter of account of the Republican National Committee was buried in mockery after hyping up a video of anti-impeachment protesters in Youngstown, Ohio, where it appears only a handful of people showed up.
According to the tweet, "Ohioans are sick and tired of the Democrats’ impeachment charade. It’s time to STOP THE MADNESS!"
However, in the video from WKBN, which can be seen below, few people chose to show up for the cameras.
As one commenter noted with tongue-in-cheek, "Thought Ohio had a few more people than that."
That was the general consensus in the comments.