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Can “Fuct” Be Trademarked? Supreme Court Hears Key Case For Free Speech

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  • 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.

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.

Hard Questions

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.

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California Parents Who Starved and Shackled Their Children Sentenced to Life in Prison.

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  • Louise and David Turpin, the parents who pled guilty to locking up and abusing their children, have been sentenced to life in prison.
  • The abuse included beating, starving, and chaining up 12 of their 13 children, among other acts.
  • The couple has the possibility of parole in 25 years.

Louise and David Turpin Receive Life Sentence

The California couple who pled guilty to locking up and abusing 12 of their 13 children were sentenced to life in prison on Friday.

Both Louise and David Turpin pled guilty to fourteen charges of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment, and false imprisonment in February. They were charged with the crimes in January 2018, when one of the children escaped from their Perris, California home. The child climbed out of a window and eventually alerted police of the situation.

The Turpin children ranged in age from two to 29-years-old at the time they were found in the house. Of the 13 kids, only the youngest appeared to have never been subject to abuse.

The Turpins chained their children to beds and other furniture, starved them, beat them. They would sometimes keep them chained for months at a time, not allowing them access to the bathroom.

The children were only allowed to shower once a year and seldom left the house. Their parents would also bake pies and not let the kids eat them and buy toys and not let the kids open or play with them. The abuse lasted for over a decade.

The Turpin’s Speak Out

The Turpins’ life sentence leaves them with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Louise Turpin spoke at the sentencing in Riverside County Superior Court, apologizing for the pain she caused her children.

“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” she said. “I want them to know that mom and dad are going to be ok.”

David Turin also had a prepared statement, but it was read by his attorney, as he was too emotional to deliver it himself.

“I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” his attorney read on his behalf.

Judge Bernard J. Schwartz condemned them both for their actions and spoke about the long-term effects of their abuse.

“Their lives have been permanently altered in their ability to learn, grow and thrive,” he said in court. “What the parents did was selfish, cruel, inhumane treatment.”

The Children Share Statements

The children, who have not been named since the case was first reported, also had a chance to speak in court.

“My parents took my whole life from me, now I’m taking my life back,” one daughter, who is now a college student, said. “Life may have been bad, but it made me strong.”

One son said he still often thinks about what he and his siblings went through.

“Sometimes, I still have nightmares of things that have happened,” he read. “Like my siblings getting chained up or beaten.”

Another child was sympathetic to their parents and expressed that they believed the Turpins deserved less jail time.

“I think 25 years is too long,” the child read in a statement. “I believe our parents did their best to raise all 13 of us.”

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U.S. Labeled ‘Problematic’ Place for Journalists

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  • Reporters Without Borders dropped the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180 countries on its annual World Press Freedom Index.
  • The ranking is three places lower than it was last year, changing the U.S. label from “satisfactory” to “problematic.”
  • The Index states that increased threats against journalists in the U.S. are becoming more normalized.
  • The report specifically cites the U.S. ranking as “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”

World Press Freedom Index

The United States has been ranked as a “problematic” place for journalists, as the threats they face continue to become more standard, according to a new report about press freedom.

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index, an annual report compiled by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders (RWB), downgraded the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180. The ranking is three spots lower than its place last year.

The downgrade officially changes the press freedom status of the U.S. from “satisfactory” to “problematic,” marking the first time the country has received that label.

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“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” the report said.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 10 journalists have faced physical attacks this year, and 46 journalists were physically attacked in 2017.

The World Press Freedom Index report also cited the five journalists who were shot and killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland last June. The attack was carried out by a man who had threatened the publication for years before the attack.

The report also cited the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey last October.

Trump’s Involvement

The section of the report on North America specifically stated that the drop in rankings was “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”

“Amid one of the American journalism community’s darkest moments,” the report said.“President Trump continued to spout his notorious anti-press rhetoric, disparaging and attacking the media at a national level.”

Since being elected, Trump has referred to journalists as the “enemy of the American people,” and continuously accused nearly every mainstream media outlet of reporting “fake news.” He has also commended violence against journalists, like giving praise to a GOP congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017.

According to the report, Trump has also called for the revocation of broadcasting licenses and attempted to block certain media outlets from access to the White House. In November, the Trump administration was forced to restore the press credentials of a CNN reporter that had been stripped of his pass after a heated exchange with Trump.

Back in August, United Nations human rights leaders stated that Trump’s attacks have undermined press freedom, and increase the risk of violence against journalists.

“The president’s relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized,” RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan told NPR.

Other Findings

The Index also found that the Americas has experienced “the greatest deterioration” in its press freedom regional score.

This is not just because of the United States. The report also cited instances in Brazil, where journalists have been targeted by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro “both physically and online.” Experts often noted that Bolsonaro uses the same “fake news” refrain to discrediting negative media about him.

The report also stated that Mexico is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, noting that “at least ten journalists were murdered in 2018.”

RSF identified North Korea and Turkmenistan as the most dangerous countries for the media, stating that their governments control the flow of information and censor journalists who defy them by using tactics including arrest, torture or killing.

In contrast, Norway ranked as the safest country, a title it has held for the past three years. Finland received second place.

Only 24 percent of the 180 countries in the report were given the rank of being “safe” or “satisfactory” for the press. This is lower than the 2018 Index, which gave 26 percent of countries “safe” or “satisfactory” rankings.


Source: 2019 World Press Freedom Index

“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”

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Woman Wanted Over Columbine Threats Found Dead

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  • After a day-long manhunt, the woman who posed as a threat to Denver area schools has been found dead by FBI officials.
  • Sol Pais was known to have an obsession with Columbine and had made credible threats to the area, causing schools to close on Wednesday as a result.

Woman Found After Search

Officials have confirmed that a woman whom FBI officials were searching for after allegedly making threats to Denver-area schools has been found dead.

On Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, Colorado Police, Jefferson County Police, and the Denver FBI were actively searching for an eighteen-year-old woman named Sol Pais.

At 10:44 a.m. local time, they announced that there was no longer a threat to the area, but did not say whether or not they had found Pais. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader confirmed at a press conference an hour later that she had been found dead on a search. The cause of death appeared to be a self-inflicted gun wound.

According to the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, Pais traveled from her home state of Florida to Colorado on Monday night and bought a shotgun and ammunition upon arriving. She was known to be “infatuated” with the school shooting that occurred at Columbine in 1999, killing 13 people. The twentieth anniversary of the tragic event is this week.

Authorities said Pais made threats that warranted investigation and was considered armed and dangerous. This prompted schools all school in the Denver Metropolitan area, where Columbine is located, to close on Wednesday. Several schools were also on lockdown on Tuesday afternoon.

The Denver FBI learned about Pais from the bureau’s Miami branch. They alerted the Denver branch of her travels, and of her past comments regarding Columbine, which have not been specified.

“She has expressed an infatuation with Columbine,” Dean Phillips, an FBI special agent said at a press conference on Tuesday. “With the events and shooting that happened tragically 20 years ago. Because of that, we were concerned.”

School Officials Look Forward

The superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, Dr. Jason Glass, thanked both school staff, as well as the public officers and officials who worked to find Pais.                                                                                                  

“We are relieved that the threat to schools and the community is no longer present,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Executive of Safety and Security at Jeffco Public School, John McDonald, said that threats to this district are nothing new, but that everyone knew this was serious.

“We are used to threats at Columbine,” he said. “This felt different. This was different.

The FBI is expected to hold a press conference later today. They are still processing the scene where Pais died.

Dr. Glass said that schools will be open tomorrow with extra safety and security measures on site.

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