The Washington Redskins Scored a Win in Supreme Court Trademark Case Ruling

Justices say government can't refuse disparaging trademarks

The case has far-reaching implications, most notably in the on-going legal battle by the Washington Redskins to secure a trademark for its controversial team name, the Washington Post reported.

"The justices ruled that the 71-year-old trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes free speech rights", the AP reports.

In that case, the Asian-American rock band "The Slants" were denied protection under a provision of the 1946 Lanham Trademark Act that prohibits trademarks that may "disparage....or bring into contemp [t] or disrepute" any persons "living or dead".

Simon Tam, founder and bassist of the Oregon-based band, had sought registration by the Patent and Trademark Office in order to "reclaim" the term from being a derogatory reference to people of Asian origin.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday, June 19, that the band can trademark its name, even though some people see it as racially disparaging.

The Redskins made similar arguments after the trademark office canceled the team's trademark in 2015. The football team had tried to convince the Supreme Court to hear their case instead of The Slants but they were denied.

In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court said that clause was unconstitutional.

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All three members of the House whose names were reported by The Daily Caller are members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Sue Hodgkinson said she felt "horrible", saying, "I had no idea this was going to happen and I don't know what to say about it".

The case has drawn intense interest as it focused on the rights of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution, at a time of heightened racial tensions in the country.

"The Supreme Court has vindicated First Amendment rights not only for our The Slants, but all Americans who are fighting against paternal government policies that ultimately lead to viewpoint discrimination". Monday's ruling in favor of The Slants would have protected the designers, since the name Blue Ivy would have been an exercise of free speech.

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Paul Fucito, a spokesman for the trademark office, said it is reviewing the decision and expects to issue new guidance for employees.

"The point is that I can say good things about something, but I can't say bad things about something" in a trademark, she said. The same is true for the Redskins, but the team did not want to lose the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark. But the office canceled the registrations in 2014 after finding the name disparaged Native Americans. It is widely believed that the court's decision to strike down the ban will provide the Washington Redskins with a crucial boon in their struggle to keep the team's name.

The Supreme Court has upheld that conclusion in Matal v. Tam (the case originated was Lee v. Tam, but changed with the appointment of Joseph Matal as PTO Director).

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