Supreme Court rules in ‘offensive trademark’ case

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the disparagement provision of federal trademark law violated the First Amendment, possibly affecting a popular NFL team’s trademark dispute.

The court reviewed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to deny a trademark to Asian-American rock band “The Slants” in the case of Matal v. Tam. The U.S. Government had determined that the name of the band was offensive. The high court decided that the trademark office’s attempt to enforce the disparagement provision of the Lanham Act was unconstitutional.

“We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opinion. “It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

All the other justices who considered the case joined Alito in his opinion. Justice Neil Gorsuch was not involved with the case.

The Slants’ victory at the Supreme Court could affect the outcome of the Washington Redskin’s current trademark dispute.

According to the Washington Examiner, “The Slants’ case has served as a proxy war in many ways for the Redskins’ case.”

Up next for the Supreme Court is a significant case that involves a possible overhaul to the functions of the American election system.


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