In May 2019, the Breeders’ Cup announced a new corporate sponsor. Per a multiyear contract, a race will be renamed the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The Lexington, Kentucky-based company is a prominent manufacturer of lighting and huge fans for a variety of industries, including agriculture and equine, so the sponsorship makes business sense.

Some folks may take offense at the Breeders’ Cup association with the nomenclature Big Ass Fans, but most people will likely find the sponsorship to be innocuous and amusing. How the commentators for the Breeders’ Cup telecast will refer to the race on the air will be interesting. More interesting yet will be future sponsorship decisions that event producers like the Breeders’ Cup may wrestle with owing to a recent U. S. Supreme Court ruling pertaining to federal trademark registration.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court in June struck down federal prohibitions against trademark protection for “immoral” or “scandalous” material. Such restrictions were found to be unconstitutional under the free speech provision of the First Amendment. The case involved a clothing brand named FUCT, an abbreviation of “Friends U Can’t Trust.” Officials at the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office judged FUCT to be obscene and vulgar and therefore refused registration.

Two other beneficiaries of the Supreme Court ruling were the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, which previously had its trademark deregistered, and an all-Asian band by the name of The Slants, who had been denied trademark registration.

When a potential corporate partner with a risqué or controversial name or trademark offers to put up cash to sponsor an event, officials of the event will have to decide whether to take the money or to turn it down for reasons of decorum. Consider, for example, the possibility of a lucrative deal for The FUCT Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. How does that double entendre resonate?

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