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Supreme Court rules that offensive trademarks, like the Washington Redskins, are legal
20 June 2017, 09:37 | Gladys Abbott
Supreme Court Sides With Portland Band The Slants In Trademark Dispute
"(The idea that the government may restrict) speech expressing ideas that offend ... strikes at the heart of the First Amendment", wroteJustice Alito in his opinion. The board said the term "slants" referred to people of Asian descent in a disparaging way.
The law used by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent the National Football League team from registering trademarks in and relating to the word "Redskins" and the logos used by the team was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Still, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has stood his ground, arguing that the team name "represents honor, respect, and pride".
But a block of justices, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor also agreed to some parts of the decision, finding, in the words of the court, "To permit viewpoint discrimination in this context is to permit Government censorship".
The decision was expected to open the floodgates for offensive terms to be registered as trademarks in the US.
Their fight wasn't meant to help sports teams like the Redskins.
On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that trademarks are protected by the First Amendment, even if they are offensive.
In the Slants case, government officials argued that the law did not infringe on free speech rights because the band was still free to use the name even without trademark protection. Instead, the case involved an attempt in 2011 by Slants founder Simon Tam to trademark the band's name.
In a filing Monday, the Justice Department defended the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's decision previous year to strip the team of protections.
If the federal registration of a trademark makes the mark government speech, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently.
In particular, the NFL's Washington Redskins-who will evidently stick by that name until death-should be able to re-register for trademarks previously canceled for being disparaging towards Native Americans.
A federal court initially sided with The Slants, and today the Supreme Court did so too, unanimously, in fact. It is expressing contradictory views.9 It is unashamedly endorsing a vast array of commercial products and services.
The trademark office also denied registration to a group called "Abort the Republicans" and another called "Democrats Shouldn't Breed", according to NPR. "Contrary to the Government's contention, trademarks are private, not government speech".
But the Supreme Court has now decided that provision is unconstitutional.
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