- The Supreme Court heard a case on Monday involving whether or not the clothing brand Fuct can legally receive a trademark.
- Erik Brunetti, the founder and owner of Fuct, claims the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office unconstitutionally violated his First Amendment rights when they denied him trademark protection for the brand.
- The Patent and Trademark Office claims that the brand name violates the Lanham Act, a federal law that bans trademark protection for words that are “immoral,” “shocking,” “offensive,” and “scandalous.”
Iancu v. Brunetti
The Supreme Court must decide whether or not the word “Fuct” can be trademarked.
On Monday, the nation’s highest court heard Iancu v. Brunetti, a case involving designer Erik Brunetti, who claims the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office acted unconstitutionally and violated his First Amendment rights when it refused to trademark his streetwear brand Fuct.
MORE: On the Supreme Court’s docket is the case of “FUCT,” a Los Angeles clothing line.— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 15, 2019
The company is fighting for trademark protection after the federal government refused to register the name, calling it “scandalous” and “immoral” https://t.co/5RdMWe3jZa pic.twitter.com/15RbeSRYRt
Brunetti founded Fuct in 1990, and since then, his brand has seen a rise in counterfeit products offered by third-party sellers. Brunetti says these products are costing him significant money.
“Go to eBay, and you’ll see a lot of counterfeits, or go to Amazon, and you’ll see lots of counterfeits,” Brunetti said.
If he wins his trademark, Brunetti will be able to sue eBay and Amazon to force them to remove the knockoff products from their sites. He will also be able to go after the counterfeiters and shut them down.
How the Case Reached the Supreme Court
Brunetti tried to copyright Fuct in 2011, but was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which claimed the name violates the Lanham Act, a federal statute that bans trademark protection for words that are “immoral,” “shocking,” “offensive,” and “scandalous.”
Brunetti appealed the decision, but for a while, nothing happened.
Then in 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an Asian-American band called The Slants, saying that the band could not be denied trademark protection. In a parallel case, the Patent and Trademark Office had denied the band a trademark because it believed the band’s name was racially “disparaging.”
The case, known as Matal v. Tam, was brought before the court, which ultimately ruled that the denial was unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
“The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion, “Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech.”
Matal v. Tam was expected to have a significant impact on other trademark cases. For Brunetti, this was a huge boost.
Following the 2017 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided that Brunetti should be allowed a trademark under the precedent set by Matal v. Tam, stating that the Lanham Act was unconstitutional because it violates the first amendment.
After the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Brunetti, the government appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Supreme Court Hears Case
During Monday’s hearing, the Justices of the Supreme Court were careful not to say the name of the brand.
The justices looked at a chart that showed terms had been given trademarks by the government and terms that had not.
Similar terms that had been given trademark protection include “FCUK” and the well-known brand “FUBAR.” The term “Crap” was registered 70 times in a trademarked name, but the “Shit” was repeatedly denied.
While viewing the chart, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked how the Patent and Trademark Office defines “scandalous,” “shocking” or “offensive.” Justice Ginsberg also asked if 20-year-olds, the target audience for the brand, generally find Fuct to be “shocking” or “scandalous.”
Malcolm Stewart, the lawyer for the government, conceded that 20-year-olds probably do not find Fuct to be “shocking” or “scandalous,” but he argued that the term would still be offensive to a lot of the population, which gives it grounds to be denied a trademark.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that he was troubled by the chart, saying it showed “erratic or inconsistent enforcement” of the Lanham Act. He argued that the chart seemed to show that the terms that were denied were hardly different from the terms that had been approved, and that the decision to approve or deny terms appeared to be made without any specific reason.
Justice Neil Gorsuch echoed this sentiment, saying that the examples given in Brunetti’s brief were “remarkably similar,” adding, “I could not myself see a rational line.”
Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have an interesting point here.
According to a study by two New York University law professors, between 2003 and 2015 the government rejected around 2,000 trademark applications which they claimed were “immoral” or “scandalous” under the Lanham Act. The lawyers who wrote the study also argued that the decisions to deny or approve these cases are inconsistent and arbitrary.
The Justices posed some hard questions to the government, but they were also sure to put the pressure on Brunetti and his lawyer as well.
Justice Stephen Breyer wondered why the government does not have the ability to deny the brand a trademark, while still recognizing Brunetti’s right to use the language in his brand without trademark protection.
Breyer also worried that allowing the trademark for Fuct would create a slippery slope whereby racial slurs could be trademarked, which could lead to slurs and offensive words appearing on newsstands, advertisements on buses, and in malls.
However, Justice Ginsberg pushed back on this concern.
“Suppose in the niche market that these goods are targeting, the name is mainstream,” said Justice Ginsberg, “These goods, as I understand it, are meant to attract a particular market, and if we concentrate on that market the word is mainstream.”
Like Matal v. Tam, Brunetti’s case would set a huge precedent for free speech if he recieves his trademark. However, the court is not set to make a decision until this summer, so those who are eager to see a decision in the closely-watched case will have to wait.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (GQ) (The Washington Post)
Oregon Governor Faces Backlash Over Response to GOP Walkout
- Oregon’s governor asked the state police to help find the 11 Republican state senators who fled the state in hopes of stopping a vote on a proposed climate change bill.
- Governor Kate Brown’s request was met with backlash, as well as threats from militia groups.
- The threats caused the State Capitol building to be closed on Saturday and forced a legislative session to be canceled.
- Oregon’s state constitutional deadline for the legislature to adjourn is June 30, which means any bills not passed by the end of the month will be wiped out.
Oregon’s State Capitol was closed down on Saturday after the state police superintendent informed the Senate president that local militia groups had plans to rally and protest outside the building in response to Governor Kate Brown’s recent request.
Following Thursday’s legislative session at the State Capitol, 11 Republican senators walked out and did not return. This left the legislature two senators short of a quorum. Governor, Kate Brown responded to the walkout and asked for police assistance to track the runaways down.
Oregon state police agreed to comply, saying in a statement: “OSP will work with the Governor’s office and members of the Legislature to find the most expeditious way to bring this matter to a peaceful and constructive conclusion.”
The Governor’s request brought reactions from many groups, notably militias in the region. One militia, called the Oath Keepers wrote on their public Facebook page, “Gov. Brown, you want a civil war, because this is how you get a civil war.” The group is described as one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the United States by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Another paramilitary group, the Oregon III% also voiced their support for the runaway senators.
According to The Daily Beast, a source inside the Oregon militia movement said their members are, “willing to put their own lives in front of these senators’ lives.”
The heightened tensions and concern for safety lead to the canceling of Saturday’s floor session. According to reports, a text message from Senate leadership was sent out, confirming the decision.
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland) said she received the text message and shared it on social media, KATU reported.
“The State Police Superintendent just informed the Senate President of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow,” the message read. “The Superintendent strongly recommends that no one come to the Capitol and President [Peter] Courtney heeded that advice minutes ago.”
A spokeswoman for the Senate president later confirmed the “Oregon State Police ha[ve] recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow due to a possible militia threat.”
Another session was attempted on Sunday but was quickly adjourned once it was clear the 11 Republican Senators who had walked out would not return. The session was moved to Monday morning, but according to local reports, the 11 Senators still never showed.
The bill at the root of all the tension is HB2020, a bill that would try to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by imposing a statewide cap-and-trade program. State Senate Republicans oppose the bill because they believe it would hurt lower-income individuals who live in rural areas. They also believe that it should be decided by Oregon voters directly, rather than the Democratic-controlled legislature and the Democratic governor.
Senate Republican leader, Herman Baertschiger, explained in a statement, “protesting cap and trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job. We have endured threats of arrest, fines, and pulling community project funds from the Governor, Senate President and Majority Leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.”
In addition to the HB2020 bill, hundreds of other budget and policy bills are currently being discussed. However, in order for the Senate to conduct business, a quorum of 20 members is necessary, with the 11 senators missing they are two senators short. Oregon’s state constitutional deadline for the legislature to adjourn is June 30, which means any bills not passed by the end of the month will be wiped out.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (Oregon Live) (KOIN)
Oregon Gov. Sends Police After GOP Lawmakers Who Fled State to Avoid Climate Change Vote
- Republican state senators in Oregon left the state in order to stop a vote on a proposed climate change bill.
- Oregon’s governor dispatched state police to find the absent senators, who will also be fined $500 each day they are missing.
- The bill would institute a cap-and-trade program with the intended goal of reducing carbon emissions by 2050.
- Republican state senators oppose the bill because they say it will hurt low-income rural communities and certain industries.
Gov. Brown Sends Police
Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown authorized state police on Thursday to track down several Republican state senators who fled the state in order to prevent a vote on a climate change bill.
After more than eight hours of negotiations over the bill that went late into Wednesday night, 11 Republican senators walked out of a legislative session Thursday, and did not return for floor proceedings later in the day.
In a statement, the Oregon Senate Republicans said that the lawmakers “made the decision to walkout and have left the state to protest.”
The Republican’s decision to leave made the state Senate two members short of the quorum needed to vote on the bill. Democrats in the chamber have an 18 to 12 majority, but still need 20 members to be present for a quorum.
Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney responded by formally requested that Gov. Brown dispatch Oregon State Police troopers to find them, which she heeded. The Republicans will also be fined $500 for each day they do not return.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building,” Brown said in a statement. “They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
The bill in question, called HB2020, aims to use a market-based approach to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050 by implementing a statewide cap-and-trade program.
That program would place a “cap” on the amount of CO2 that companies and utilities could emit. Regulators would require those entities to purchase allowances or credits for each ton of CO2 they produce.
Businesses that emit more CO2 than allowed would be required to purchase more credits or trade with other businesses. Over time, Oregon will decrease the number of credits available, which will force companies to pollute less.
The Senate Republicans oppose the bill because they believe the cap-and-trade program would disproportionately hurt lower-income individuals who live in rural areas, as well as specific industries and small businesses.
Republicans say the cap-and-trade proposal should be decided by Oregon voters, rather than the Democratic-controlled legislature and the Democratic governor.
Several Republicans responded defiantly to Brown’s announcement that she would send the police after them.
“Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said in a written statement on Thursday.
“We have endured threats of arrest, fines, and pulling community project funds from the governor, Senate president and majority leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.”
Evidently, the walkout and the possibility that Brown would send state police after those who left had been in the works before the lawmakers disappeared. In a statement Wednesday, Republican Sen. Brian Boquist appeared to threaten the police the day before the walkout.
“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” he said. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner.”
When asked where Boquist was hiding, his wife, Peggy Boquist told CNN, “They all left and are in Idaho. I don’t have a way of contacting him.”
This is also not the first time in recent weeks that Oregon’s Republican state senators have walked out. In May, the Republicans left for four days in order to push Democrats to make concessions to a school funding bill.
The Republicans ultimately did receive the concessions and returned to the Oregon Senate floor to successfully pass a multi-billion dollar education bill.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (Salon) (The Oregonian)
U.S. Suicide Rates At Highest Since WWII
- A new study from the CDC found that suicide rates in the U.S. were 33 percent higher in 2017 than they were in 1999.
- A spike was seen in both men and women among all races and ethnic groups, but was particularly high for Native Americans and Alaska Natives who saw a 139 percent increase in women and a 71 percent increase in men.
- The data aligns with another medical journal report published this week that found that in 2017, suicide rates among young people had reached their highest levels since 2000.
Federal health officials said Thursday that U.S. suicide rates are at the highest they have been since World War II.
According to a new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 out of every 100,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. That means the rate in 2017 was 33 percent higher than it was in 1999.
The research uses data from the National Vital Statistic System’s Multiple Cause of Death files for 1999 and 2017. According to the data, an increase was seen in both men and women and among all races and ethnicities, however, the increase is sharper in some groups.
Spike Among Indigenous People
Native Americans and Alaska Natives have seen the highest increase, particularly with women in these communities. For indigenous women, the rate increased by 139 percent, while suicides among indigenous men went up by 71 percent.
Native Americas have long battled with disproportionately high suicide rates. “As a result of historical trauma, chronically underfunded federal programs, and broken promises on the part of the US government, American Indians and Alaska Natives experience many health, educational and economic disparities compared to the general population,” the Center for Native American Youth explains.
The research did note some limitations, saying that in some cases deaths among American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic people may be misclassified to other racial or ethnic groups. However, the number is still slightly higher than it was in last year’s report.
The CDC’s report last year found that suicide rates increased by 25 percent across the United States between 1999 and 2016, and went up by more than 30 percent in half of all U.S. states.
Suicide Rates in Young People
The CDC findings align with another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday. That report found a sharp increase in suicides among people between the ages of 15 and 24 between 2000 and 2017.
According to the study, among those 15 to 19, the rates were eight per every 100,000 people in 2000. That increased to 11.8 in 100,000 in 2017.
Among youths between 20 and 24-years-old, the rate went from 12.5 to 17 per 100,000.
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.