Supreme Court Rules Against Ban on "Scandalous" Trademark Registrations

  • News
  • IP News
  • June 27, 2019

As widely reported by Law360, USA Today, The Washington Post, and other media outlets, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday, June 24 in favor of free speech rights when it struck down a provision of the Lanham Act which bans intellectual property protection to trademarks deemed “immoral” or “scandalous.” In a 6 – 3 vote in Iancu v. Brunetti, the justices held that the provision was an unconstitutional form of discrimination on the basis of viewpoint, violating the First Amendment. The ruling echoed a decision made two years ago in Matal v. Tam, where the Supreme Court invalidated a ban on "disparaging" trademarks related to the moniker of an Asian rock band.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of the Court, referencing the Court's decision in Matal v Tam, when she wrote, “Today we consider a First Amendment challenge to a neighboring provision of the Act, prohibiting the registration of "immoral or scandalous" trademarks.  We hold that this provision infringes the First Amendment for the same reason: It too disfavors certain ideas.”

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