Washington Redskins owner 'thrilled' by Supreme Court's trademark ruling

Cameron Gross
June 26, 2017

The United States Supreme Court ruled this morning that a law preventing "disparaging" names from being registered as protected trademarks violates the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Asian-American rock band The Slants, who can finally register their name after a long fight.

Theband's front man, Simon Shiao Tam, appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled the law unconstitutional, saying it violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.

But the Federal Circuit, ruling on the Slants' case in December 2015, overturned that precedent, declaring that the rule penalized unpopular speech by denying the substantial benefits of a trademark registration.

The federal government argued that trademarks constitute government speech, and the First Amendment should not be understood as requiring the government to make offensive statements. This outcome in Matal v. Tam is a victory for the Asian American rock band The Slants.

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Redskins attorney Lisa Blatt said the court's decision effectively resolves the Redskins' longstanding dispute with the government.

Team owner Daniel Snyder was so psyched by the news that he needed all caps to describe how he felt.

Even though the government issues trademarks, the court decided trademarked phrases are private speech and that the government can't censor private speech just because of the message.

The Redskins case was on hold pending the Supreme Court decision in the Slants case. To that end, they knowingly used false and misleading information, supported by questionable sources such as UrbanDictionary.com, while placing undue burdens on vulnerable communities and small business owners by forcing them into a lengthy, expensive, and biased appeals process.

The case is also a big win for the Washington football team, which has been fighting a separate battle over the trademark of its name that uses a skin color to describe a certain type of human being. The decision is likely to improve the Redskins' chances of retaining their trademark. Trademark examiners refused his registration of "The Slants" on the grounds that it was too offensive, despite Tam's claims that the name was meant to reclaim a racial slur. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by the rest of the Court in its 8-0 conclusion, albeit not universally in its reasoning. The Supreme Court did not find these arguments persuasive, instead holding that the disparagement clause amounted to "viewpoint discrimination" in violation of the First Amendment. The protections include blocking the sale of counterfeit merchandise and working to pursue a brand development strategy.

Other reports by BadHub

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