Asian American rock band wins the right to trademark their "disparaging" band name.
'The Slants have won the right to trademark their band name. The Supreme Court rules Monday that even trademarks considered to be derogatory deserve First Amendment protection, in a ruling that could have significant impact on how speech protection is applied in other trademark cases.
The Slants' frontman, Simon Tam, filed a lawsuit after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the band from registering its name, and rejected repeat appeals, citing a section of the 1946 Lanham Act, a federal law that prohibits registration of trademarks that "disparage" or "bring into contempt or disrepute" persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols. Tam contended that the 70-year-old law violates free speech rights.
In an 8-0 ruling, the court agreed with The Slants, determining the law's disparagement clause violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
"The commercial market is well stocked with merchandise that disparages prominent figures and groups, and the line between commercial and non-commercial speech is not always clear, as this case illustrates," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court. "If affixing the commercial label permits the suppression of any speech that may lead to political or social 'volatility,' free speech would be endangered."