The Supreme Court struck down part of a 71-year-old federal law that banned “disparaging” trademarks. The ruling could benefit the NFL's Washington Redskins.
The Redskins' trademark was canceled based on the same law in a separate proceeding. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled numerous trademarks for the team back in 2014 over allegations that the name is insulting to Native Americans. The Supreme Court's ruling came in a separate case brought by Oregon-based, Asian-American band The Slants. The band had been denied a trademark because its name was considered disparaging. The Court ruled Monday that the law is unconstitutional.Slants founder Simon Tam said his goal was to reclaim a derisive slur and transform it into a badge of ethnic pride. But the trademark office said a term can be disparaging even when used in a positive light. "I was ridiculed as a kid for having slanted eyes," Tam told CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford in an interview. "Now I'm saying it's something that I can be proud of, not something to be ashamed of." Justice Samuel Alito, in the Court’s opinion, agreed with the band.
[caption id="attachment_2601" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Asian-American band The Slants[/caption]
It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the grounds that it expresses ideas that offend,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote about the law in the Court’s opinion.
The case also has obvious implications for the similar dispute involving the Washington Redskins. Their trademark was canceled under the same statute and theory that the justices invalidated. Despite intense public pressure to change the name, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused, saying it "represents honor, respect, and pride."
The Washington Redskins' attorney Lisa Blatt said the team was "thrilled" with the Supreme Court's decision.