(800) 594-4480

Keep it Legal Blog

Supreme Court to Decide on Racially Disparaging Trademarks

This week, we had big news in the trademark world. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Lee v. Tam. Should racially disparaging terms be registered as trademarks by the United States Patent and Trademark Office?

From my December 2015 blog post about the case:

[The] case was about a rock band named The Slants. The band is made up of Asian-Americans. The word “slant” is often considered a slur against Asians and people of Asian descent.

Simon Shiao Tam, the leader of the band, applied to register their name as a trademark; the USPTO refused on the grounds that the word is disparaging and therefore not eligible for trademark registration. Tam, along with his legal counsel, appealed the matter to federal court.

Back in December 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (which is a U.S. Federal court) ruled that Congress (who created the Lanham Act, which sets out the rules for the USPTO) cannot impose this kind of speech restriction. The government appealed, and now the Supreme Court will, presumably, make a definitive ruling in this controversial issue.

The owners of the Washington Redskins have been fighting a similar battle. They also asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, but they didn’t take that case. But if the Supreme Court rules that the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registering disparaging terms as trademarks is unconstitutional as it applies to the facts in the Slants case, then the same would likely be true for the Redskins…and any number of other terms that are understood to disparage some segment of the population.

Click on the 2015 blog post for more details about this controversial issue. You can be sure I’ll update the blog once the Supreme Court issues its ruling.

Want to receive all the latest updates? Contact me today

Click Here

Receive updates from the Keep it Legal blog

I’m glad you enjoy the blog, and I’d love to keep you updated with all the latest legal tips and business law strategy news.

Enter your name and email below, and we’ll be in touch!

« Color Trademarks – If it’s good enough for FedEx… Skittles Post: Copyright Infringement by Trump Campaign? »