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Chinese-American band wins right to trademark The Slants

21 June, 2017, 07:11 | Author: Simon Thompson
  • Asian-American band win top court case over offensive trademark

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks in a ruling that is expected to help the Washington Redskins in their legal fight over the team name.

His team registered an important victory when the Supreme Court ruled, on free-speech grounds, that federal trademark registrations may be granted even in most cases where they are considered derogatory.

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court.

He later wrote that, "The 'public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers'".

"(The idea that the government may restrict) speech expressing ideas that offend ... strikes at the heart of the First Amendment", wrote Justice Alito in his opinion. Slant founder Simon Tam said that although "slants" has been used as a derisive slur against persons of Asian ancestry, his goal in taking the name was to make the term one of ethnic pride. "Now the Supreme Court says you can register offensive names".

The Redskins have a separate case that had been on hold in federal appeals court while the Slants decision was rendered.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that a law banning the registration of offensive trademarks was unconstitutional.


The Slants' trademark case could also impact other controversially named groups like the Washington Redskins, which has been in jeopardy of losing its team name for being racially offensive.

"For too long, people of color and the LGBTQ community have been prime targets under Section 2 (a) of the Lanham Act, simply because we believe in the deliberate disarmament of toxic language and symbols", said Tam.

It's a bummer that the decision means the Skins will likely go on using their shitty racist name, but it's ultimately a good thing for free speech that the Slants won their case.

The Redskins made similar arguments after the trademark office canceled the team's trademark in 2015.

"If the NFL wants to live up to its statements about placing importance on equality, then it shouldn't hide behind these rulings, but should act to the end this hateful and degrading slur", said a joint statement from the National Congress of American Indians and the group Change the Mascot.

"Government officials can not be trusted to "neutrally" identify speech that disparages", wrote syndicated columnist George Will in a January 2017 column.

"Nothing in the opinion undermines the decisions of the TTAB or the District Court that the term "redskin" disparages Native Americans", the group said in a written statement. Nine of 10 American Indians have no problem with the use of the term "Redskins" as a sports mascot, according to a poll a year ago conducted by the Washington Post. Alito also said trademarks are not immune from First Amendment protection as part of a government program or subsidy.

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