Chinese-American band wins right to trademark The Slants

Asian-American band win top court case over offensive trademark

Advocates say the fight is still on.

The case of Matal v. Tam came to the attention the Supreme Court when a band called "The Slants" was unable to trademark its name because it was considered offensive.

Over the years, some companies and organizations, such as the Washington Redskins, have found themselves unable to trademark their names because they were deemed offensive. That section of the law had been cited by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when it denied a trademark to the Washington team in 2014. "I think people know that in the back of their minds, they know that".

The Supreme Court ruled against banning offensive trademarks in a court case on Monday. The Slants, formed in Portland, Oregon, are four Asian-American musicians who chose their name, long used as an ethnic slur, at least in part to reclaim the word on their own terms.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to protect other potentially hateful or hurtful speech in recent years.

The Court ruled for the Slants and held that the statute "offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend".

The court case may be good news for the National Football League team the Washington Redskins, who made similar arguments in 2014 after the trademark office ruled that their name was an offensive term and excluded from trademark.




Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of OH, says he does not think Monday's court ruling will help teams like the Washington Redskins and Indians keep monikers that some find offensive.

The Redskins are fighting efforts by a group of American Indians, including lead plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, to have its trademarks cancelled on the same grounds.

"We respectfully disagree with the Court's decision".

Anyone who cherishes free speech and free expression has got to cheer this decision.

Lawrence Nodine, an intellectual property litigator who was one of three who wrote an amicus brief for the International Trademark Association in the band's case, said the decision was the right outcome. While it may be legal for the team to use the name, she said, that doesn't make it right. The same is true for the Redskins, but the team did not want to lose the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark.

The court found that registering a trademark is protected under the Constitution as freedom of speech.

The council also noted studies that have shown the use of offensive terms such as "Redskins" as part of a school's mascot, name or symbol has a detrimental effect on Native American students attending those educational institutions. Supporters of the name said it was meant to honor, not disparage, while opponents said the moniker was demeaning to the Native Americans in the community.

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