Rock Band Challenging Law Barring Registration of Disparaging Trademarks

Justin Farooq

On January 18, 2017 a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court looked to be amenable to arguments by a rock band that is challenging the federal law that bans the registration of disparaging trademarks.[1]

The petitioners in this case are the Slants, an Asian-American band who claims the ban violates the First Amendment. According to reports by the Washington Post[2], New York Times[3] and USA Today[4], members of the Supreme Court looked skeptical of the law during oral arguments.  The reaction is likely good for the Washington Redskins, a NFL team whose trademark was revoked due to the fact that its name is disparaging to Native Americans.[5]  The Slants assert that they are using the name to regain an offensive term about Asians and use it “as a badge of pride.”[6]

[1] Debra Cassens Weiss, Supreme Court Appears Skeptical of Law Barring Registration of Disparaging Trademarks, ABA Journal (Jan. 18, 2007, 4:44 PM CST), http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/supreme_court_appears_skeptical_of_law_barring_registration_of_disparaging.

[2] See Robert Barnes, Can Disparaging Trademarks be Denied? The Supreme Court is Skeptical, The Washington Post (Jan. 18, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-skeptical-of-governments-withholding-disparaging-trademarks/2017/01/18/b97b6752-dd05-11e6-918c-99ede3c8cafa_story.html?utm_term=.047681dd22df.

[3] Adam Liptak, Justices Appear Willing to Protect Offensive Trademarks, New York Times (Jan. 18, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/us/politics/justices-appear-willing-to-protect-offensive-trademarks.html?smid=pl-share.

[4] Richard Wolf, Justices Dubious About Government Denials of ‘Derogatory’ Trademarks, USA Today (Jan. 18, 2017, 3:31 PM), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/18/supreme-court-trademark-slants-redskins/96720748/.

[5] Tony Mauro, In ‘Slants’ Case, Justices Skeptical of Ban on Disparaging Trademarks, Law.com (Jan. 18, 2017), http://www.law.com/sites/almstaff/2017/01/18/in-slants-case-justices-skeptical-of-ban-on-disparaging-trademarks/?slreturn=20170027193816.

[6] Weiss, supra note 1.

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