"The Slants" go to the Supreme Court
Portland rock band "The Slants" are headed to the Supreme Court to challenge the rejection of their trademark application for their band name. On January 18, 2017, the matter will be heard by the Supreme Court. Specifically at issue is whether the United States Patent and Trademark Office can reject applications it deems disparaging. If the USPTO does reject an application it deems disparaging, does it violate the First Amendment?
The Slants certainly think the rejection of the name is a violation of their First Amendment rights. They have stated that they named the band The Slants as a "reappropriation" of the term. Simon Tam of The Slants has said in court filings that he "is not a bigot; he is fighting bigotry with the time-honored technique of seizing the bigots' own language."
Watching closely are the Washington Redskins, whose trademarks are currently pending in a federal appeals court due to being deemed disparaging. In the Redskins court filings, they cite numerous potentially racist and/or racy names that have been approved by the USPTO, including Yellowman, Retardipedia, Crippled Old Biker Bastards, and Boobs as Beer Holders. Whatever ruling is handed down in The Slants' matter will greatly affect the outcome of the Redskins' trademarks.
A decision in The Slants' matter is expected by June 2017.