The Supreme Court must decide whether the wording ‘Trump too small’ (Trump too small) – a message that has a sexual connotation – may be registered in the trademark register without the consent of the former president.
The case goes back to 2018, when Californian lawyer Steve Elster wanted to register ‘Trump too small’ as a trademark. The intention was to produce and sell T-shirts and hats with that inscription. An accompanying drawing of a hand gesture was also intended to make it clear that the comment ‘too small’ refers to Trump’s penis. In his request, Elster described the wording as a “political commentary.”
The agency responsible for the trademark register had refused the application. If the name of a living person is used, his or her consent is required, the reasoning stated. Elster disagreed and went to court. He invoked freedom of expression and the right to criticize public figures. Elster was right both at first instance and on appeal. Federal authorities then asked the Supreme Court to review the case.
Malcolm Stewart, the attorney for the federal government, said Elster’s right to free speech was not violated in any way. “Even if Elster cannot register the brand ‘Trump too small’, he can sell T-shirts with that slogan,” he told the nine justices of the Supreme Court. The law only prohibits him from claiming “exclusive rights” to someone else’s name, it said.
The text ‘Trump too small’ is inspired by a joke made during the debates for the 2016 Republican primaries. Senator Marco Rubio had then commented that Trump has small hands. “And you know what they say about men with small hands,” Rubio continued.
According to US media, following the oral arguments during the hearing, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will reaffirm the patent agency’s decision.