Martedì, 19 Dicembre, 2017

The Slants win Supreme Court case over disparaging trademarks

Acilia Dean | 20 Giugno, 2017, 00:11

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of an Asian-American band calling themselves The Slants, who had been denied the right to trademark their name because it was deemed a racial slur.

The ruling specifically involves Simon Tam, an Asian-American musician and political activist, whose rock band was named "The Slants" - to take back a term that once was an insult.

After a federal court agreed with Tam and his band, the Patent and Trademark Office sued to avoid being compelled to register its name as a trademark.

"The government defends free speech around the world because it knows when free speech is threatened, religious minorities suffer", said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, a non-profit religious liberty law firm that says it has teamed with the government in the past to fight laws banning insulting or defaming religious speech.

After losing in a lower court, the band won at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which ruled 9-3 past year that "the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech".

Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito did not mince words in ruling that the decades-old trademark provision is unconstitutional. He also targeted KNBC-TV and other stations over use of the name on air. A federal appeals court in Richmond put the team's case on hold while waiting for the Supreme Court to rule in the Slants case. The four more "liberal" justices, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, would've ended the discussion after finding that the PTO here is engaging in viewpoint discrimination among private speech.

Despite intense public pressure to change the name, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused, saying it "represents honor, respect and pride".

The band welcomed the ruling.


Pro Football, Inc. v. Blackhorse was the case in which the Washington NFL team challenged a PTO decision that stripped the team of all trademarks to its name after the PTO decreed "redskins" a slur and thus unprotectable under the Lanham Act.

"I am THRILLED!" he said in a statement Monday morning.

"The Supreme Court vindicated the team's position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government's opinion", Blatt told the Associated Press.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office appealed that ruling to the high court in April, and the justices granted certiorari in September.

Redskins attorney Lisa Blatt said the court's decision effectively resolves the Redskins' longstanding dispute with the government. Those bystanders, in this case, would be the marginalized groups who have been trying to get their own trademarks registered.

Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court after arguments were heard in the case and did not participate in Monday's decision.

The outcome is likely to affect the legal case of the Washington Redskins, whose trademark registration was revoked in 2014 under the same disparagement clause.

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