This week, the Supreme Court overturned a statute limiting federal registration of disparaging trademarks. Before this week’s decision, trademarks like those for the Washington “Redskins” and a band called “the Slants” could not be federally registered.
The Slants, an Asian-American dance-rock band from Portland, formed in 2006. They sought to register their band name as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2011. The application was rejected under the trademark statutes by the USPTO as disparaging, noting the term “slants” is understood as a derogatory term for those of Asian descent. The statute prevents registration of any mark which is “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt[.]”
The Supreme Court noted that the rule is very broad and found the law unconstitutional. The full decision can be read here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1293_1o13.pdf
So will the floodgates open to federally register all kinds of offensive marks? We’ll have to wait and see.
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