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20 June 2017, 10:42 | Gladys Abbott
Members of the Portland Oregon-based Asian American rock band The Slants Tyler Chen Ken Shima Simon Tam Joe X. Jiang pose in Portl
Their fight wasn't meant to help sports teams like the Redskins.
The ruling likely paves the way for the Redskins to protect trademarks covering the team's name.
"We grew up and the notion of having slanted eyes was always considered a negative thing", Tam said in January.
Government officials said the law did not infringe on free speech rights because the band was still free to use the name even without trademark protection. As Slants bassist Simon Tamtold Reason.tv's Meredith Bragg, the whole point of the band's provocative name was to challenge anti-Asian stereotypes.
UCLA School of Law's Supreme Court Clinic was behind a big free speech victory on June 19, when the U.S. Supreme Court held that a federal law prohibiting disparaging trademarks violates the First Amendment.
In a 39-page opinion that came with several concurrences, Justice Samuel Alitowrote that the rule - the so-called disparagement clause of Lanham Act's Section 2a - amounted to discrimination based on unpopular speech.
He later wrote that, "The 'public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers'". Now, thanks to a rock band, the team may be able to get it back.
The team appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. "The Court's decision, however, was narrow", the plaintiff's statement said. The board said the term "slants" referred to people of Asian descent in a disparaging way. Coleman and his team argued anything less than full trademark protection would shortchange the band's rights.
Lisa Blatt, a lawyer representing the Redskins, told Reuters the team is thrilled with Monday's ruling because it resolves "the Redskins' long-standing dispute with the government".
"The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause", Justice Alito explained in his Matal v. Tam opinion.
The band's application to trademark its name was denied by the PTO in 2011. The term is viewed as derogatory to Asians, but the band wanted to reclaim the term and "drain its denigrating force".
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