Anyone who knows anything about me knows how much I both love and rely on profanity. Love, because profane language is precisely the sort of color the world needs more of. Rely on, because I use certain profane words the way most people use commas. So, when the courts decided that even the most profane words could be used in trademarks, I applauded. Fucks were literally given.
But not every piece of profanity deserves a trademark. And, while I again applaud Boston University’s decision to create a profane slogan around COVID-19 safety awareness for its student body, why in the actual fuck did the slogan have to be trademarked?
First, the context:
Boston University asked a group of communications students for help encouraging their peers to follow the school’s strict COVID-19 safety guidelines when they return to campus for the upcoming semester.
What it got back was a slogan that did not mince words.
Last week, BU officials filed a trademark application for the slogan “F*ck It Won’t Cut It” in order to promote “public awareness of safe and smart actions and behaviors for college and university students in a COVID-19 environment.” The filing first garnered attention after a trademark lawyer flagged it Tuesday morning on Twitter.
On the slogan, fuck yeah! In fact, pretty good for a Methodist school! But on the trademark application, what the fuck? I have serious questions as to whether the application even meets the criteria for a valid mark to begin with. How, precisely, is this being used in commerce? What good or service is this trademark supposed to identify a source for? Schooling? Not really. Healthcare? Nah. What precisely are we doing here?
“Our slogan is a powerful phrase that sparks a reminder for students to make safe choices at decision points each day, because saying ‘F-it’ to responsible protocols won’t keep us on campus,” Hailey McKee, a BU graduate student and public relations manager for the campaign, told the Boston Business Journal.
Well, sure, but why hell does this need to be siloed to Boston U via trademark? The school really doesn’t want its sister universities to be able to raise effective awareness using the slogan as well? Why not?
This feels ultimately like another long-tail outcome of permission culture and expansive IP enforcement, where an entity just defaults to wanting to claim IP on all the things. But the world would be better if leading institutions like BU… you know… did better.