Supreme Court justices do verbal gymnastics to avoid saying 'vulgar' name of fashion brand

U.S. Supreme Court justices went out of their way to avoid saying the name of a fashion company at the center of an obscenity controversy Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Federal law prohibits the registration of trademarks that are “scandalous” or “immoral,” leaving Los Angeles fashion brand FUCT unable to obtain a trademark, according to the AP.

Justices reportedly went out of their way to avoid using the word during arguments, with Chief Justice John Roberts calling it the "vulgar word at the heart of the case” and Justice Samuel Alito calling it “the word your client wants to use," according to the AP.


Malcolm Stewart, who argued on behalf of the federal government, claimed the law in question is the government choosing not to promote certain speech rather than a restriction on speech. He too avoided naming the brand, calling it “the equivalent of the profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity and perhaps the paradigmatic word of profanity in our language,” according to the news service.

John R. Sommer, representing Erik Brunetti, the artist behind the brand, argued the name “isn’t exactly” profanity.

“Oh, come on. You know, come on,” Alito said, according to the AP. “Be serious. We know ... what he’s trying to say.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, meanwhile, noted inconsistencies in the application of the law for trademarks. For example, the trademark office refused to register “FUK!T” but cited both the “scandalous and immoral” provision and its similarity to an existing trademark for “PHUKIT.”

“There are shocking numbers of ones granted and ones refused” that are similar, Justice Neil Gorsuch added, according to the AP. “I don’t want to go through the examples.”