USPTO Confirms It Has No Sense Of Humor And A Very Limited Grasp On Today's Slang Lexicon

from the trademarkus-interruptus dept

In this case, applicant seeks registration of NO FUCKS GIVEN for hats, headbands, hooded sweatshirts, pants, shirts, and wraps.

Trademark application denied. So sayeth the US Patent and Trademark Office, citing — among other things — a handful of real dictionaries, along with the more useful “Urban Dictionary.”


Certainly, a case could be made that the word “fuck” has crossed the threshold of making the fairer sex faint whenever it’s uttered or whatever the standard is that turns sharper swear words into just another “damn.”

That the USPTO would quote the Urban Dictionary is a small sign that it’s broadening its horizons. This is cited somewhat in the registrant’s defense, since the UD defines “fucks” as “the standard unit of measurement used to describe the amount an individual cares about something.”

But that’s the end of the good news for Michael Suo, the man who would be the king of given fucks (clothing items only). And that’s the end of the USPTO’s brief flirtation with comprehending common slang terms.

From that point on, it’s real dictionaries all the way down, leading the USPTO to this inevitable conclusion.

Registration is refused because the applied-for standard character mark, NO FUCKS GIVEN consists of or includes immoral or scandalous matter.

The USPTO notes that the public might be fine with everyone swearing like proverbial sailors, but it won’t be a part of this downfall of society, thank you very much.

The fact that profane words may be uttered more freely in contemporary American society than in the past does not render such words any less profane. In re Tinseltown, Inc., 212 USPQ 863, 866 (TTAB 1981) (holding the mark BULLSHIT scandalous for handbags and other personal accessories); see In re Michalko, 110 USPQ2d 1949, 1953 (TTAB 2014) (holding the mark ASSHOLE REPELLENT scandalous for a spray can gag gift).

From that point, it’s simply a matter of using a single definition for the word “fuck” pulled from real dictionaries and applying it horribly to the phrase in question. The end result is something akin to a person swearing in something other than their native tongue — i.e., badly and far too literally.

The attached evidence from Merriam-Webster and Cambridge Dictionaries Online, and others, shows the term, FUCK(S) which is obscene means to engage in coitus with. Therefore, the word FUCK(S) is scandalous because it conveys the commercial connotation of “no coitus given”.

Yeah, but no. And the USPTO probably knows this, since it also cited Know Your Meme.


At no point could this picture of an unhappy owl being sprayed with water be reasonably interpreted as stating:


If Suo indeed has any fucks left to give, he’s welcome to appeal the USPTO’s decision. But if it’s not ready to greenlight BULLSHIT, 1-800-JACK-OFF or ASSHOLE REPELLENT, chances are its fucks will remain in steady supply for the time being. That being said, Suo’s lack of registered trademark won’t prevent him from selling foul-mouthed headgear, etc., but it won’t prevent anyone else from doing so either. And considering the phrase has pretty much pushed “I don’t care” into the realm of obsolete vernacular, it’s probably a good thing no one’s being granted exclusive use. But hat’s off to Suo for trying, even if they’re of the more boring variety that lack a running total of fucks remaining to give. (h/t Metafilter)

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Comments on “USPTO Confirms It Has No Sense Of Humor And A Very Limited Grasp On Today's Slang Lexicon”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Tim, you were just trying to increase your “naughty words” ranking on here, weren’t you? Haven’t we got almost half a year left before the next stack ranking comes out?

I agree with JoeCool — I’d go further to say that the PTO gave no fucks about this application, which is why they didn’t bother to give a more in-depth reason — just enough to say er, no, we don’t allow stuff like this, and yes — we get what you were trying to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anything childish and tears at people, you're for. Anything that actually protects or builds civilization, you're against.

You are the barbarians inside the gates, the orc hordes, the muggles, the zombies.

Rampant vulgarity just simply cannot be good. I don’t object to the words, kids, know MORE of them, historical and furrin, than you do! — But sheerly as practical matter, if loses its shock value, what next?

Tell you what, if you don’t think it’s harmful to some degree, just use variants of “FUCK” frequently to your mother and all other women, especially in the work place. Dare you.


By the way, once I’ve gotten a comment in, you might think that have an “okayed” cookie? Wrong! It’s always poisoned after a few minutes, have to get new ID and toss cookies.

Mild-mannered dissent is yet words that Techdirt can’t bear…

Anonymous Coward says:

pro·fane
prəˈfān/Submit
adjective
1.
relating or devoted to that which is not sacred or biblical; secular rather than religious.
“a talk that tackled topics both sacred and profane”
synonyms: secular, lay, nonreligious, temporal; formallaic
“subjects both sacred and profane”
2.
(of a person or their behavior) not respectful of orthodox religious practice; irreverent.
“desecration of the temple by profane adolescents”
synonyms: irreverent, irreligious, ungodly, godless, unbelieving, impious, disrespectful, sacrilegious
“a profane man”
verb
1.
treat (something sacred) with irreverence or disrespect.

Care to explore separation of Church and State? Are they arguing that language is sacred?

Anonymous Coward says:

I would have to agree that it should have been declined because it is a common phrase. the vulgarity of it is a personal decision that can be argued fairly arbitrarily. but trademarking common phrases should be a straight forward decline. Things like “you wanna get out of here” or “run for your life” are other examples of common phrases that should never be ownable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Monopolies over common phrases

Trademark application for “No Fucks Given” denied? Good!!! The asshole trying to trademark the phrase did nothing to justify a monopoly over its use in a commercial context. He took a phrase someone else conceived and tried to claim an exclusive right to profit from it.

To hell with that guy. He can make money without the monopoly.

amoshias (profile) says:

I find this site so weird sometimes.

I don’t get this site sometimes. Are you trying to tell me that when this applicant tries to sue someone for trying to sell panties with “NO FUCKS GIVEN” there wouldn’t be an EQUALLY OUTRAGED article up here blasting the fact that the trademark had been granted?

Of course you would. This application is utterly ridiculous. It’s a common phrase, containing material that – whether this rule makes sense or not – is smack dab in the center of a rule that disallows the word “fuck” in trademark applications.

Your argument that – somehow – the context renders the word “fuck” not obscene here is ridiculous on its face. It’s the transgressive nature of USING the word fuck in this context that gives the phrase “I don’t give a fuck” its linguistic power. Does it sound really, REALLY silly for a patent examiner to have to explain that using the word ‘coitus’? Yes, absolutely. (Anything that uses the word coitus sounds ridiculous.) But that doesn’t magically grant your argument validity.

Maybe the PTO should let the word fuck into trademarks. I don’t know, frankly, and I don’t care. But that’s the rule right now, this application clearly falls within the ambit of the rule, and letting your hatred of the PTO overwhelm your common sense doesn’t help anyone. Techdirt is better than this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I find this site so weird sometimes.

“but it won’t prevent anyone else from doing so either. And considering the phrase has pretty much pushed “I don’t care” into the realm of obsolete vernacular, it’s probably a good thing no one’s being granted exclusive use.”

It’s okay to like a decision but hate the reasons for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I find this site so weird sometimes.

The only reason TD exists is because of the entirely fucked up, distorted, perverted, incoherent concept of “intellectual property”, including copyrights, patents, trademarks, and the laughable “publicity rights”, that allow people to think that the most absurd concepts that humanity has ever imagined are somehow justifiable. Commenting on insanity is bound to come across as slightly disjointed.

Zonker says:

I don’t see how this is any different than denying trademark protection for the Washington Redskins. Nobody is denying them the use of the word/phrase, the USPTO simply won’t grant any exclusive rights on those words to the applicant on the grounds of those terms being potentially “offensive” to some people.

But then again, I don’t really give a fuck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Techdirt has applauded USPTO for denying the Redskins trademark, even tho it doesn’t like how they have tried, tried again by trying to trademark things like “Redskin Potatoes”. And rightful so. While the USPTO isn’t exactly setting these companies on fire, it doesn’t really seem to fit within trademark propose of protecting consumers from companies misusing the names of others, to push them into not saying un-nice things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Techdirt has NOT applauded USPTO for denying the Redskins trademark, even tho it doesn’t like how they have tried, tried again by trying to trademark things like “Redskin Potatoes”. And rightful so. While the USPTO isn’t exactly setting these companies on fire, it doesn’t really seem to fit within trademark propose of protecting consumers from companies misusing the names of others, to push them into not saying un-nice things.

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