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FUCT - US Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of Erik Brunetti

The legendary brand founded by Erik Brunetti is challenging US laws in a trademark registration case

FUCT - US Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of Erik Brunetti The legendary brand founded by Erik Brunetti is challenging US laws in a trademark registration case


The US supreme court has a message for the federal trademark office: get FUCT. Justices came to that conclusion after the designer Erik Brunetti’s fashion line ran into trouble with the US patent and trademark office (PTO), which registers product names. Brunetti was seeking a trademark for his brand, FUCT, which he says is pronounced letter by letter. (The brand’s Twitter bio suggests it stands for “friends U can’t trust.) But the trademark office wasn’t thrilled with the branding and turned down Brunetti’s registration, under a law banning “immoral or scandalous matter”. In the words of PTO authorities, FUCT was “a total vulgar”.


Before Supreme, before Virgil Abloh and all the mainstream streetwear, there was a brand that anticipated most of the culture and trends that dominate global culture in the 90s.
Don't feel guilty if you don't know it, their goal was just that: being avant-garde, staying away from the spotlight and big money. I'm talking about FUCT and its creator Erik Brunetti, an artist, a designer and contemporary critical thinker.

Starting from logo flips, super-baggy skate pants, and graphic tees, FUCT was seminal in launching and pioneering all these trends, that have now eventually conquered the mainstream fashion culture. But more than every graphic iteration, they established a hard-edged, outlaw ethos that streetwear brands have sought to emulate in decades since. The ability to play with pop culture and capitalism with an edgy irony laying down a standard for the rest of the industry.

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The contemporary market is now overwhelmed by edgy graphics and cheap counter-culture references, which is why Brunetti decided to fight a different battle, trying to legally trademark its own brand. Like the rest of Brunetti's artistic and commercial production, he began the legal process in 2011 without proclamations and front pages, having always defined himself as "not a front row guy". American courts have always refused his registration as "scandalous" and "immoral", but Brunetti did not surrender and brought his case to the Supreme Court - the highest level of US justice - which discussed the case on Monday and will now decide whether to grant the registration of the trademark to Brunetti.
As in the Supreme NY vs Supreme Italia case, the brand trademarking are taking on a new role and a more significant weight in the market: while for Supreme, it is a business issue, for Brunetti it is an ideological question, another one of his battles.


The influence of FUCT

If Brunetti and Natas Kaupas had founded FUCT in 2018, it would have been just another street brand struggling for a market share, stealing and copying ideas all around.
But when FUCT was founded it was 1990 and not even the word "Streetwear" existed in Los Angeles. The name played with the association to the word fucked but the initials stood for "Friends U Can’t Trust".
From the first creations, Brunetti made clear the ironic and provocative vibe: inspired by Andy Warhol, he started the season of rip-off logos from big companies and stills from iconic films.
The most famous was the Ford tee's, but among the victims were among others Fila, Pirelli, Nike, Carhart, Planet of the Apes and Apocalypse Now.
It is not just a provocative theft, but an appropriation that carries with it the disillusioned and post-capitalist social criticisms of the late 1980s.

Brunetti's creation - who started as graffiti artist in the 80s - and caught the most attentive eyes in the market: James Jebbia - Supreme founder and mastermind - started selling the brand at Union NYC and it is pretty clear that FUCT has been one of the main inspiration for Jebbia both in terms of designs and in the counter-cultural and arty-oriented ethos of the brand.
The iridescent and adaptable character of the logo was used by the rest of the industry as well as the graphics on the sleeves, which Virgil Abloh used for OFF-WHITE.

Remaining faithful to the provocative ethos of the brand - which touched unreachable heights with the commemorate Saddam Hussein tee or with the rip-off of the paramilitary Symbionese Liberation Army- FUCT has never been interested in entering the fashion mainstream by increasing production or softening its identity. Rather Brunetti spared no attacks and teased more or less directly the brands that democratized streetwear: he called A Bathing Ape "A fuckin 'joke", advised making money like Virgil Abloh and obviously made fun of Supreme with their own weaponry.

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The right to say FUCT 

The story of the brand helps to understand why Brunetti has been carrying on the battle to register the brand for years. It is not to avoid fakes - which however exist, he said in an interview with GQ USA - but rather an ideological battle for freedom of expression.
FUCT cannot be registered in the United States for a legal quibble from US president Truman's age (1945-1953) which prohibits the trademark of "scandalous" and "immoral" words. Brunetti - helped by lawyer John Sommer, who is also a chief counsel of Stüssy - is appealing to the first amendment of the American constitution, that is the right to freedom of language.

Brunetti, who learned the ins-and-outs of trademark law by dodging cease-and-desists, has always defended the possibility of "appropriating" a brand, but in this case, it is more a formal recognition of what has now become the dominant culture in global aesthetics. 
Brands like Supreme that have surfed on the counter-cultural streetwear wave, and unlike FUCT, have entered the global market, today finds themselves in an uncomfortable position between the mainstream and the underground. In the case of Supreme, in order to defend their identity, they have given way to the culture of counterfeiting and today they turned away from the consequences of a problem that has become much larger than expected. The legal battle of FUCT, is not only an end in itself, it would undoubtedly help other brands too - including Fuckin Awesome for example - that are stuck in the same legal limbo situation.

The American Supreme Court has accepted the case of Brunetti and last Monday discussed it with the parties involved. The sentence is expected for this summer and will perhaps be the last spectacular gesture of FUCT. Just in case, Brunetti has already made the shirt: Fuct is free speech. Free speech is Fuct™.