Stabilizing Morality in Trademark Law

33 Pages Posted: 23 May 2014 Last revised: 14 Oct 2019

See all articles by Christine Haight Farley

Christine Haight Farley

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: 2014


Almost all of the commentary concerning the statutory prohibition on registering offensive trademarks lambasts it as a misguided attempt to enforce civility through trademark law. This Article carefully considers the challenges accompanying section 2(a) of the U.S. Trademark Act and defends it as good policy. There are, however, a few instances in which the jurisprudence under section 2(a) has created more problems than it has solved. To alleviate these problems, this Article proposes judging words per se and abandoning the traditional trademark notion of evaluating words in context. Judging words per se is warranted given the very different objectives underlying section 2(a) as compared with the rest of the Trademark Act.

Keywords: trademark law, Lanham Act, morality, scandalous, disparaging marks, trademark registration, Redskins, Native Americans

Suggested Citation

Farley, Christine Haight, Stabilizing Morality in Trademark Law (2014). 63 American University Law Review 1019 (2014), American University, WCL Research Paper 2014-19., Available at SSRN:

Christine Haight Farley (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States
202-274-4171 (Phone)
202-274-0830 (Fax)


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics