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Intellectual Property Litigation Privacy

Northern District of California Holds Vanity License Plates Are Not Government Speech

California DMV regulations excluding plaintiffs’ personalized plates were like the PTO trademark registration restrictions of SLANTS and FUCT — restrictions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court for violating the First Amendment.

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Depravity or lust, hostility or prejudice? Whatever those might be. In Ogilvie v. Gordon, No. 20-cv-01707 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 24, 2020), the Northern District of California found that California DMV regulations excluding plaintiffs’ personalized plates were like the PTO trademark registration restrictions of SLANTS and FUCT — restrictions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court for violating the First Amendment. The district court followed the Supreme Court in the trademark cases Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017) and Iancu v. Brunetti, 139 S. Ct. 2294 (2019), finding the PTO’s refusal to register certain trademarks was improper viewpoint discrimination. The result for would-be vanity license plates holders? The California DMV may not prevent registration of vanity plates like QUEER, BO1LUX, DUK N A, or OGWOOLF.

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