Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Supreme Court rules that potentially offensive terms can be trademarked

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Theresa Hayes | 20 June, 2017, 01:57

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of an Asian-American band calling themselves The Slants, who had been denied the right to trademark their name because it was deemed a racial slur.

The band's victory could be welcome news for the Washington Redskins, which has been waging its own legal fight over the team's name, which some people find offensive.

In 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board revoked six federal trademark registrations belonging to the Redskins, a ruling which was affirmed by a federal judge in 2015.

"The government defends free speech around the world because it knows when free speech is threatened, religious minorities suffer", said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, a non-profit religious liberty law firm that says it has teamed with the government in the past to fight laws banning insulting or defaming religious speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left in place a lower court's ruling that barred private citizens from suing OH for allegedly impeding their ability to vote by requiring ballot forms to be filled out perfectly.

In a 39-page opinion that came with several concurrences, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the rule - the so-called disparagement clause of Lanham Act's Section 2a - amounted to discrimination based on unpopular speech.

Today's decision will have implications for Washington's football team, whose name is now a dictionary-defined slur.

The NFL team's appeal has not yet been heard by a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va. The government may not "penalize private speech merely because it disapproves of the message it conveys", a majority of the court found.

Tam said the band was "beyond humbled and thrilled" with the ruling.

"I am THRILLED", Snyder told the AP.

The section of the law at issue bars the trademark office from registering a name that may "disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute".

But when the litigation of the word "redskins" is left to a group like the PTO, the resulting decisions will always say more about that body's own biases than anything else.

Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the case, which was argued before he joined the court. And the idea that our market will be flooded by people who just want to register marks on a whim is ridiculous. people have to have an established business objective, pay the fees, go through the paperwork and have their information in public.

Patent and Trademark Office spokesman Paul Fucito said the agency was reviewing the decision.

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. The protections include blocking the sale of counterfeit merchandise and working to pursue a brand development strategy.


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