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ibusinesslines.com July 21, 2017


Boost To Redskins Case: Supreme Court Says Government Can't Refuse Disparaging Trademarks

20 June 2017, 09:51 | Laverne Osborne

Justices say law on offensive trademarks is unconstitutional

Supreme Court pushes Redskins' name fight back to society

This Supreme Court ruling is a victory for that Asian-American rock band.

Simon Tam, founder and bassist of the Oregon-based band, had sought registration by the Patent and Trademark Office in order to "reclaim" the term from being a derogatory reference to people of Asian origin. The Slants had been denied trademark protection for their name under the Lanham Act. Shortly after that, the Tam case was headed to the Supreme Court, and Washington appealed for their own Supreme Court hearing, ahead of any decision by the Fourth Circuit.

The court ruled 8-0 to throw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks, saying that was a violation of First Amendment rights.

The justices said part of a law that bars the government from registering disparaging trademarks violates free speech rights.

'After an excruciating legal battle that has spanned almost eight years, we're beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court, ' they said in a statement posted to their website on Monday.

The Redskins filed an amicus brief supporting the Supreme Court case brought by The Slants. 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 ruling could benefit the NFL's Washington Redskins, whose trademark was canceled based on the same law in a separate proceeding.


"The Supreme Court has held that Congress can not keep disparaging trademarks out of the federal registration program", they said, "but the Court did nothing to cast doubt on the prior judicial findings that the Washington NFL team's name and trademarks disparage Native Americans". The case featured an Asian rock band the Slants and a trademark denial they had received.

Justice Neil Gorsuch did not rule on the case as he was not on the court when the case was argued.

The law used by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent the National Football League team from registering trademarks in and relating to the word "Redskins" and the logos used by the team was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has upheld negative speech in recent years, even when it involved distasteful protests at military funerals or disgusting "animal crush" videos.

"I am thrilled! Hail to the Redskins", Snyder said in a statement to CSN Mid-Atlantic.

The appeals court ruling led the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to appeal to the Supreme Court with the argument that trademarks are government speech, not private speech, and trademarks should be considered either a form of government subsidy or a government program, but not a citizen's "free speech".

But in a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court said that law violates free expression.



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