Supreme Court denies review of Washington Redskins trademark

Supreme Court denies review of Washington Redskins trademark
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The Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal from the Washington Redskins over the cancellation of the team's trademark.

The court did not give a reason for refusing to take the case, known as Pro-Football Inc. v Blackhorse.

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The Washington Redskins asked the court in April to hear its case if it also agreed to review a similar case involving a band called The Slants, which is did last week.

That case, Lee v. Tam, centers on an Asian-American dance-rock band named The Slants.

The frontman, Simon Shiao Tam, sued the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for refusing to register the band name. The board said the term “slants” referred to people of Asian descent in a disparaging way and cited Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which bars it from registering scandalous, immoral or disparaging marks.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Tam, who argued that the board’s refusal to trademark the band name violated his right to free speech. 

The PTO has appealed and the justices must now decide whether the free speech clause of the First Amendment trumps the disparagement provision in the Lanham Act.

The Redskins case shares some similarities. The PTO canceled the trademark for the Redskins in 2014, calling it “disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.”

The team rejects the argument that the term is disparaging and has fought to protect the trademark in court.