SCOTUS Takes on Scandalous Trademarks and Hears Oral Arguments in Six Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in six cases this week. One of the most closely-watched cases was Iancu v. Brunetti, which will determine whether the Lanham Act’s prohibition on the federal registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks runs afoul of the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
The dispute arises from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) refusal of Erik Brunetti’s application to register the mark “FUCT” for his clothing line. The Federal Circuit disagreed, concluding that the Lanham Act’s scandalous-marks provision is unconstitutional.
The appeals court relied on Matal v. Tam, in which the Court struck down the federal ban on registering disparaging trademarks, holding that it violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.” The Supreme Court will again get the last word.
Below are the other cases before the Court:
Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian: The case involves Section 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act, which prohibits “mak[ing] any untrue statement of a material fact … in connection with any tender offer.” The Court will decide the following question: “Whether the Ninth Circuit correctly held, in express disagreement with five other courts of appeals, that Section 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 supports an inferred private right of action based on a negligent misstatement or omission made in connection with a tender offer.”
Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton: The disputes centeron the relationship between state and federal law with respect to the Outer Continental Shelf. The specific question before the justices is: “Whether, under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, state law is borrowed as the applicable federal law only when there is a gap in the coverage of federal law, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has held, or whenever state law pertains to the subject matter of a lawsuit and is not pre-empted by inconsistent federal law, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has held.”
North Carolina Department of Revenue v. The Kimberley Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust: The Court must resolve a circuit split regarding whether the Due Process Clause prohibits states from taxing trusts based on trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency. Four state courts have held that the Due Process Clause allows states to tax trusts based on trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency. Five state courts, including two state supreme courts, have concluded that the Due Process Clause forbids these taxes.
United States v. Davis: The Court must decide the following: Whether the subsection-specific definition of “crime of violence” in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3) (B), which applies only in the limited context of a federal criminal prosecution for possessing, using, or carrying a firearm in connection with acts comprising such a crime, is unconstitutionally vague. The Court has previously struck down similarly worded residual clauses as unconstitutionally vague in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), and Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2014).
McDonough v. Smith: The justices must decide what happens when the government fabricates evidence. The specific question is: “Whether the statute of limitations for a Section 1983 claim based on fabrication of evidence in criminal proceedings begins to run when those proceedings terminate in the defendant’s favor, as the majority of circuits have held, or whether it begins to run when the defendant becomes aware of the tainted evidence and its improper use, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit held below.”
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- Establishment ClauseFree Exercise Clause
- Freedom of Speech
- Freedoms of Press
- Freedom of Assembly, and Petitition
- The Right to Bear Arms
- Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
- Due Process
- Eminent Domain
- Rights of Criminal Defendants
Preamble to the Bill of Rights
Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.