Supreme Court rules government can't refuse disparaging trademarks

Supreme Court rules government can't refuse disparaging trademarks

Supreme Court rules government can't refuse disparaging trademarks

The top United States court says the government can not deny registration of trademarks with offensive terms, arguing that is a violation of the right to free speech.

The Supreme Court ruling in the Slants case will likely give the Redskins leverage in their own court battle.

But both opinions held that an Asian-American band could indeed trademark its (ironic) name, The Slants.

At issue in Matal v. Tam was a federal law prohibiting the registration of any trademark that may "disparage.or bring.into contemp [t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead".

"Because the disparagement clause applies to marks that disparage the members of a racial or ethnic group, we must decide whether the clause violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment", Justice Alito explained in the opinion.

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In a 39-page opinion that came with several concurrences, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the rule - the so-called disparagement clause of Lanham Act's Section 2a - amounted to discrimination based on unpopular speech.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal trademarks of terms some consider derogatory are covered by the First Amendment, a decision that, in all likelihood, will clear the way for the Washington Redskins to get back trademarks that were canceled in 2014 after complaints by Native Americans.

'This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it's been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what's best for ourselves'.

The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of the band.

A federal court initially sided with The Slants, and today the Supreme Court did so too, unanimously, in fact.

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The court, he wrote, is cautious in extending its government-speech precedents, "for if private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints". The decision could destroy legal challenges to other controversial trademarks, such as the Washington Redskins football team.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who joined the court in April, was not on the bench for oral arguments in the case, so he did not vote. The ongoing controversy surrounding the team's unwillingness to change their name even after they have been told how offensive it is to many indigenous people will continue, but there may no longer be legal recourse to force a name change.

The Washington Redskins had their trademark revoked in 2014 because of the Lanham Trademark Act, and they had shown their support for Tan's case by filing an amicus brief.

The government appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court. "The Supreme Court vindicated the Team's position".

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