One of the most diverse profanities in English ate in the middle of the US Supreme Court Monday.
But the nine members of the court and the lawyers who argued for the case managed to avoid saying the word – or the firm's name, FUCT, it's its phonetic equivalent – high in an hour's conversation about whether to strike down a federal trademark law that allows the government to refuse to register trademarks that are considered immoral or scandalous.
The measure was the basis of the US Patent and Trademark Office's rejection of Erik Brunetti's 201
Afterwards, Brunetti took his case to the United States Prosecutor General's Office who found that the federal government correctly considered the mark (pronounced as the word "fucked") outrageously, but said that the law violated the constitutional protection of freedom of speech.
Instead of referring to Brunetti's company directly, the Supreme Court's lawyers and lawyers chose to select euphemisti c references on Monday or spoke broadly about profanities and sexually explicit material.
Malcolm Stewart, a lawyer with the Ministry of Justice who argued for the Trump administration, referred to FUCT as "the equivalent of the profane past participatory form of a familiar word of profanity and perhaps the paradigmatic word of profanity in our language."
Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts called the "vulgar word in the heart."
But the motivation behind the name FUCT was not lost on at least some of the judges.
"Come on, be serious," said lawyer Samuel Alito to John Sommer, who argued the case on behalf of Brunetti. "You know what he's trying to say."
The court considered whether the disputed provision, which has been on the books for more than a century, violated Brunetti's freedoms.
Justice Stephen Breyer seemed particularly concerned that a judgment in Brunetti's favor would open the door to trademarks with racing muscles, which could then appear on commercials on buses or newsstands.
"Very often, the word involved in your case and race is not point of view," said the breyer. "It's used to insulting someone, rather than fighting words, or it usually tends to pay attention to yourself."
But others at the nine-member court recognized that the law was broad and applied inconsistently by the Patent and Trademark Office. 19659002] Some trademark applications, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, were downgraded for two reasons: because the trademarks were scandalous and because they were similar to brands already registered.
"If the mark is already registered," Ginsburg said, "Then it's not outrageous."
For example, the US Patent and Trademark Office refused to register the FUCT, but received FCUK, an acronym for the British-based clothing chain French Connection.
How did Neil Gorsuch adjust, is a "reasonable citizen" likely to know how the government will treat their brand?
"Is it a flip of a coin?" he asked.
The wording of the law is "very broad," said Justice Elena Kagan, who sucked the Ted Ted dilemma legally.
"If Congress wants to pass a minor law focused on vulgarity or profanity, then Congress can do that," she said.
The Trump administration claims that in refusing to approve trademark applications with scandalous or immoral material, the government is "protecting unwilling viewers of material they find offensive".
A decision by the judiciary is expected in late June.