Supreme Court sides with band The Slants in fight over disparaging trademarks

Supreme Court sides with band The Slants in fight over disparaging trademarks
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The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Asian-American dance-rock band The Slants in striking down a provision in trademark law that banned the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering disparaging names.

In affirming a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court said the disparagement clause in the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment’s protections of free speech in a case eyed carefully by fans of the Washington Redskins.

The provision in the law prohibited the PTO from registering trademarks that may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute any persons, living or dead.

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The Slants frontman, Simon Shiao Tam, sued the PTO after it refused to register the Portland, Ore.-based band name. The board said the term “slants” referred to people of Asian descent in a disparaging way.

The case was being closely watched because the Washington Redskins had asked the court to take its case challenging the PTO’s decision to cancel its trademark, but the court refused.

The NFL team's appeal has not yet been heard by a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va.

The PTO canceled the "Redskins” trademark in 2014, claiming the team name and logo are disparaging to Native Americans.