NSFW: An Empirical Study of Scandalous Trademarks

Academic Article


  • The Lanham Act bars registration for trademarks that are “scandalous” and “immoral.” While much has been written on the morality provisions in the Lanham Act, this piece is the first scholarly project that engages an empirical analysis of the Section 2(a) rejections based on scandalousness; it contains a look behind the scenes at how the morality provisions are applied throughout the trademark registration process. This study analyzes which marks are being rejected, what evidence is being used to reject them, and who the applicants are. Our data pays particularly close attention to the evidence used to determine whether a mark is scandalous. We also consider whether this bar is effective at removing these marks from the consumer marketplace.
  • Authors

  • Carpenter, Megan
  • Garner, Mary
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • 2015
  • Keywords

  • empirical legal studies
  • intellectual property
  • scandalousness
  • trademark law
  • trademark refusal
  • trademark registration
  • Start Page

  • 321
  • End Page

  • 365
  • Volume

  • 33