Justices say law on offensive trademarks is unconstitutional

Supreme Court: 9/11 detainees can't sue top US officials

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 Supreme Court on Monday, June 19, 2017, struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks in a ruling that is expected to help the Washington Redskins in their legal fight over the team name.

The Slants - new drummer Yuya Matsuda, vocalist Ken Shima, guitarist Joe X. Jiang, and Tam (whose stage name is Simon Young) - are an Asian-American dance-rock band that applied for a trademark in 2010.

The ruling strikes down a 1946 measure that barred federal officials from putting disparaging trademarks on a government registry.

During oral argument in January, several justices said provocative names are chosen by individuals and organizations to express their views or as advertising.

Though this is not an automatic victory for the Redskins' case, Lisa Blatt, the team's attorney, expressed her delight over the high court's decision to affirm the lower court's ruling in Matal v. Tam and gut the ban on potentially disparaging trademarks.

The band countered that the 70-year-old law at issue violates free-speech rights. He has called the Redskins' name a "badge of honor".

The team's appeal, also on free speech grounds, was put on hold in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, pending the outcome of The Slants' case. The four more "liberal" justices, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, would've ended the discussion after finding that the PTO here is engaging in viewpoint discrimination among private speech.

Snyder has repeatedly insisted he will not change the team's name despite continuing objections by Native Americans.

"This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it's been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what´s best for ourselves", he said.

"I am THRILLED!" he said in a statement Monday morning. "The Supreme Court vindicated the Team's position that the 1st Amendment blocks the government from denying or canceling a trademark registration based on the government's opinion".

The team's name itself is not at stake, but if the trademark is canceled, the name becomes less valuable because the owners would struggle to enforce their trademark against anyone who wanted to use the name or Indian logo on their own merchandise.

The court also said the Voting Rights Act provision at issue could only be enforced by the USA attorney general, and lawsuits by private parties were barred. The decision could destroy legal challenges to other controversial trademarks, such as the Washington Redskins football team.

Critics of the law said the trademark office has been wildly inconsistent over the years in deciding what terms are too offensive to warrant trademark protection.

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