Skip to main content
What is Immoral or Scandalous Matter?

Some may think this is a very subjective definition, but I assure you, the USPTO sees it differently. Here is what they have to say about it:

“Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), is an absolute bar to the registration of immoral or scandalous matter on either the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register.

Although the words “immoral” and “scandalous” may have somewhat different connotations, case law has included immoral matter in the same category as scandalous matter.

In affirming a refusal to register a mark as scandalous under §2(a), the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals noted dictionary entries that defined “scandalous” as, inter alia, shocking to the sense of propriety, offensive to the conscience or moral feelings or calling out for condemnation. McGinley, 660 F.2d at 486, 211 USPQ at 673 (mark comprising a photograph of a nude, reclining man and woman, kissing and embracing, for a “newsletter devoted to social and interpersonal relationship topics” and for “social club services,” held scandalous). The statutory language “scandalous” has also been considered to encompass matter that is “vulgar,” defined as “lacking in taste, indelicate, morally crude.” In re Runsdorf, 171 USPQ 443, 444 (TTAB 1971).

Dictionary definitions alone may be sufficient to establish that a proposed mark comprises scandalous matter, where multiple dictionaries, including at least one standard dictionary, all indicate that a word is vulgar, and the applicant’s use of the word is limited to the vulgar meaning of the word...(1-800-JACK-OFF and JACK OFF held scandalous, where all dictionary definitions of “jack-off” were considered vulgar) ...(Board sustained opposition finding that SEX ROD was immoral and scandalous under §2(a) based on dictionary definitions designating the term “ROD” as being vulgar, and applicant’s admission that SEX ROD had a sexual connotation)...(multiple dictionary definitions indicating BULLSHIT is “obscene,” “vulgar,” “usually vulgar,” “vulgar slang,” or “rude slang” constitute a prima facie showing that the term is offensive to the conscience of a substantial composite of the general public).”

A lot of verbiage to read in an attempt to get a feel for “scandalous” or “obscene”, I know, but the USPTO is pretty strict on their definition. And it’s no use using your creative spelling variations such as FUK or SH*T, the USPTO isn’t going to be fooled or lenient. Both of those variations are Abandoned marks after the USPTO had this to say:

Refusal: Immoral or Scandalous Matter

Registration is refused because the proposed mark consists of or comprises immoral or scandalous matter:

Certain commonly “scandalous”, or at least questionable words or phrases, may be allowed depending on the connotation and/or industry. For example, DICK, a series of hand tools, is a registered trademark. Since no evidence of a refusal for scandalous matter is recorded, I can only attribute this to the fact that Dick is a common nickname for Richard and that the product is nothing at all to be perceived as immoral or scandalous. I am sure it would be a different outcome if the product was, for example, a line of adult toys.

On the same token, we must consider that an application is at the mercy of the Examining Attorney at the USPTO that receives the application. An example is the mark YOU [heart] COCK, refused and now abandoned on the basis of immoral and scandalous matter, while COCK BRACELET, sporting a logo inclusion of a rooster, is registered for jewelry, namely bracelets.

So, you see, there is a small window of gray area, again depending primarily on connotation, but also on the subjective opinions of the specific Examining Attorney. A good rule of thumb, however: don’t expect to get a registered trademark and make a million bucks on your favorite, crude, insulting cuss rant that you coined over a couple of drinks with your buddies. Have fun, but keep it clean, folks!

- Mention our blog & receive $25 off of our Premium Package -
- Put BLOG in the Contact Name field -


Popular posts from this blog

Trademark International Class: Class 35 (Advertising and Business Services)
All goods or services are categorized within International Classes (IC hereafter). Goods run from classes IC 1-34, while Services are in IC 35-45. Please see a complete chart here. Let's take a closer look at one of these trademark classes – class 35.

What is International Class 35 All About?

Each class has a short title heading that gives a snapshot of what that class is all about -- IC 35's short title is advertising and business services. Pretty vague, eh? The USPTO has 1476 accepted descriptions that fit into IC 35; check them out here.

The first part of IC 35’s description, advertising, is straightforward. If it’s advertising, marketing or promoting services that are being offered, then IC 35 is where it goes. Now there are going to be some exceptions, as with anything related to trademarks.
Tangible advertising goods, such as signs, flyers, brochures, are NOT going to be in IC 35 as those items are n…

Trademark 101: State Trademark or Federal Trademark?

Now that you know what a trademark is, what a trademark isn’t, and that you should get a trademark, let’s explore if a State trademark or Federal trademark is most appropriate for your needs.
For the USA, trademarks can be obtained either at the State level or the Federal level. So, which do you need? I’ll explain both and that’ll give you a clearer picture as where to go from here.
First and foremost, a State trademark gives you trademark protection for that specific state whereas a Federal trademark gives you trademark protection nationwide. Simple enough, yes? But, which is the right trademark for your needs?
1)Are you actively in business? 2)Are you only doing business in one city or county or just statewide?
If you answered yes to both, then exploring a State trademark is your next step. Here are some advantages to a State trademark:
·The right to expand statewide. The name will be waiting for you in other metros. ·If another mark is infringing upon yours within the state, you’ll have a…

Trademark 101: Should You Trademark?

Now that we know what a trademark is and is not, let’s dive into the next logical question: should you trademark?
The easiest way to answer this question is to look at your business and your plans for it.
-Is the name, logo, or slogan an integral part of your business? -Are you doing business on a statewide or nationwide or international level? If you’re only doing business citywide or countywide, do you see potential for geographical growth? -Would another business in your industry using the same or similar name hurt your business? In other words, is it possible you’d lose customers if someone had the same or similar name in your industry?
If you answered yes to any of the above then exploring a trademark is the way to go.
Here’s what a US Federal trademark gives you:
·A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration (whereas a state registration only provides rights…