CNN – A political activist’s desire to register a suggestive phrase targeting Donald Trump’s anatomy and policies is at the center of a Supreme Court case being heard Wednesday that will test the limits of the First Amendment.
Trump is not a party to the case, but his name will likely be tossed around constantly during oral arguments as the justices weigh whether a federal trademark statute that prevented the activist from registering “Trump Too Small” as a slogan for t-shirts without the former president’s explicit permission runs afoul of the First Amendment.
Attorneys for the activist, Steve Elster, told the justices in court papers:
“The mark criticizes Trump by using a double entendre, invoking a widely publicized exchange from a 2016 Republican primary debate in which Trump commented about his anatomy, while also expressing Elster’s view about ‘the smallness of Donald Trump’s overall approach to governing as president of the United States.”
The topic may seem somewhat lurid for the high court, but the justices have in recent years struck down various parts of the trademark law – called the Lanham Act – in favor of more free speech protections for potentially controversial trademarks.
“In arguments Wednesday, the justices will weigh a California man’s attempt to trademark a phrase mocking the former president and current Republican front-runner for 2024 as ‘too small.'” – AP
In one case, they threw out a provision of the law that prohibited the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks, and in another they ruled unconstitutional a part of the law that denies trademark protection of disparaging marks.
Now, the court is presented with its latest opportunity to further pare back the law as it examines a provision that says the government must refuse to register a trademark if it identifies a living person without their written consent.
Legal experts say the justices could use the dispute to issue a more sweeping ruling about the First Amendment’s role in federal trademark law …