Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Supreme Court rules that the "commercial" First Amendment protects "disparaging" trademarks in "Slants" case (also would apply to Redskins football)

The Supreme Court ruled, 8-0 (Gorsuch was not yet seated) that the USPTO cannot refuse to register trademarks just because a minority group (or suspect class) finds it disparaging.

Robert Barnes has a detailed analysis in the Washington Post today here.
The case is about an Asian-American rock group called the “Slants” that tried to trademark its name, bringing back stereotyped slurs from the days of the Vietnam war. The case is named Matal v. Tan.

Some sources criticize the opinion as saying that the “Bill of Rights is about making money”.  Maybe trademark law really is. That idea could put domain names for efforts not sufficiently commercial at risk, if challenged by others who think that the same wordmarks could make money, employ people, and even pay for health insurance (the Trump effect).

This would mean that the Washington Redskins will be able to trademark their team name (again) and probably won’t do a name change.

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