Justices say government can't refuse disparaging trademarks


Now, the Supreme Court says that law is unconstitutional.

The court's ruling came in a case brought by a band named "The Slants," which also lost its trademark protections after the trademark board said the moniker was disparaging to Asians and Asian-Americans.

He's often noted that the band and its its name have strong support in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, unlike the Washington Redskins, now engaged in their own legal battle over the team's trademark.

"Big Pecker Brand" T-shirts, a cartoon strip called "Twatty Girl", and the lesbian biker group "Dykes on Bikes" - these lurid names are just some that are now eligible for USA trademarks after a Monday ruling by the Supreme Court found that potentially offensive trademarks are protected by the First Amendment's free speech clause.

"The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause", Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court.

The band, called the Slants, argued that the name doesn't fall under the disparagement provision.

Today's decision will have implications for Washington's football team, whose name is now a dictionary-defined slur.

FILE - In this April 4, 2017 file, the Supreme Court in Washington.

It will, however, nearly certainly lead to a reversal of the trademark board's ruling, saving the team's six trademark protections it had canceled.

Justices, though, said that violated the First Amendment.

"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", according to the band's statement.

The decision is a victory for members of an Asian-American rock band who call themselves "The Slants".

The team's appeal, also on free speech grounds, was put on hold in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, pending the outcome of The Slants' case.

The Supreme Court decision upheld that ruling.

The case is Matal v. Tam, 15-1293.

The larger ramifications from this case are that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can not refuse trademarks it views as offensive. Snyder issued a quick response to the decision on Monday: "I am THRILLED".

The 1946 Lanham Trademark Act prohibits the registration of a trademark that "may disparage" a person, community, or institution.

Snyder has repeatedly insisted he will not change the team's name despite continuing objections by Native Americans. "While this may be the right result under the First Amendment and the principles of free speech that are foundational to our country, it seems the responsibility will now pass to the public".

Writing separately, Justice Anthony Kennedy stressed that the ban on disparaging trademarks was a clear form of viewpoint discrimination forbidden under the First Amendment.