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Supreme Court to hear ‘Trump too small’ trademark case

Donald Trump, right, and Sen. Marco Rubio participate during a presidential debate in 2016.

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear whether a California lawyer can register the phrase “Trump too small” as a federal trademark on t-shirts.

Since 2018, Steve Elster has been attempting to register the mark “Trump too small” for use on t-shirts that criticize former President Donald Trump. Elster’s application was denied due to a federal statute that prohibits trademarks containing a person’s name unless that person gives written consent.

Last year, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that Elster’s proposed trademark goes to “the heart of the First Amendment” because it is intended to poke fun at a government official. Barring Elster from registering the trademark was unconstitutional, the court ruled.

The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to weigh in because a lower court had invalidated a federal law.

The phrase “Trump too small” originates from an exchange of taunts between Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who at the time were rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Trump often called Rubio “Little Marco,” and in response, Rubio criticized the size of Trump’s hands during a campaign stop.

The court will hear oral arguments in the case, Vidal v. Elster, in late 2023 or early 2024.


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