In January of last year, a case involving the Asian-American band The Slants was brought in front of the Supreme Court. The case discussed the issue of the band’s name, “The Slants” being denied trademark protection on the grounds that it was a disparaging trademark.
The law does not provide federal trademark protection to marks that may disparage institutions, national symbols, people, or beliefs. This law isn’t meant to limit free speech but to prevent access to government protection for such marks.
The band has stated that they do not intend to disparage anyone and hoped that the band name would help reform the term to be less negative. The Supreme Court has demonstrated some willingness to protect these marks with one Justice indicating that government programs cannot decide to deny access due to speakers’ viewpoints.
The deputy solicitor general on the case, Malcolm L. Stewart, stated that mixing messages within trademarks can be distracting and that the government can prevent these distractions. In response a Justice stated that distracting trademarks are frequently approved, and that Congress doesn’t have a basis to pick this specific mark out while allowing the rest through.
So far, the Court seems to be leaning towards protecting this mark and possibly other similar marks as well.
A good summary of the case entitled, “Supreme Court Rocks the Trademark Office in ‘Slants’ Case” on IPWatchDog can be found at, https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2017/06/26/supreme-court-rocks-trademark-office-slants-case/id=84967/