Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Culture | By Julio Duncan

Redskins owner says he's thrilled with ruling

Redskins owner says he's thrilled with ruling

An all-Asian rock band calling itself "the Slants" could not be denied the right to patent its name on grounds of being too offensive, the Supreme Court found in a unanimous ruling.

In 2014, the Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team's registrations after five Native Americans said that the name was offensive.

The 71-year-old trademark law that bars disparaging terms infringes on free speech rights, the justices ruled unanimously 8-0.

"It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle", writes Alito in the opinion.

FILE - In this September 18, 2016 file photo, a Washington Redskins helmet is seen on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Landover, Md.

The Redskins, for one, were "thrilled" with the results of the Supreme Court decision, according to a statement released by Redskins attorney Lisa Blatt.

The original lawsuit about the Redskins nickname was brought by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, who sued the team and claimed that the name "Redskins" disparaged Native Americans. The First Amendment doesn't apply to "government speech", in which case the feds should be free to grant or deny trademarks based on offensiveness or "disparagement" as they see fit.

Supreme Court precedent may help the club in its ongoing legal battle, but the fight over the Redskins moniker will continue in social and business realms. He sought to register the name with the trademark office.

The federal government said in court papers that it should not be required to approve trademarks 'containing crude references to women based on parts of their anatomy; the most repellent racial slurs and white-supremacist slogans; and demeaning illustrations of the prophet Mohammed and other religious figures'.

"If the federal registration of a trademark makes the mark government speech", wrote Justice Samuel Alito, "the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently".

Monday's case involved an Asian-American, Simon Tam, who named his rock band "The Slants".

Kennedy wrote: "A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all".

A federal appeals court had sided with the Slants in 2015, saying First Amendment protects "even hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities".

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch did not hear the case, but all of the other justices ruled in Tan's favor.

Ronald Coleman is a partner at Archer and Greiner, the law firm that represented the band before the Supreme Court. "It seems this decision will indeed open the floodgates to applications for all sorts of potentially offensive and hateful marks", said Lisa Simpson, an intellectual property lawyer in NY.

Like this: