The Highest Court on Monday struck down part of a law that bans quarrelsome trademarks in a ruling that is expected to help the Washington Redskins in their statutory fight over the team name.
The justices ruled that the 71-year-old trademark law excluding disparaging terms infringes free speech rights.
The ruling is a success for the Asian-American rock band called the Slants, but the case was closely awaited for the impact it would have on the separate dispute involving the Washington football set.
Slants founder Simon Tam tried to trademark the band name in 2011, but the U.S. Transparent and Trademark Office denied the request on the ground that it disparages Asians. A federal implores court in Washington later said the law barring offensive trademarks is unconstitutional.
The Redskins converted similar arguments after the trademark office ruled in 2014 that the christen offends American Indians and canceled the team’s trademark. A federal prays court in Richmond put the team’s case on hold while waiting for the Superlative Court to rule in the Slants case.
In his opinion for the court, Detention Samuel Alito rejected arguments that trademarks are government spiel, not private speech. Alito also said trademarks are not immune from At the outset Amendment protection as part of a government program or subsidy.
Tam insisted he was not distressing to be offensive, but wanted to transform a derisive term into a statement of snobbishness. The Redskins also contend their name honours American Indians, but the band has faced decades of legal challenges from Indian groups that say the christen is racist.
Despite intense public pressure to change the name, Redskins holder Dan Snyder has refused, saying it «represents honour, respect and pride.»
In the Angles case, government officials argued that the law did not infringe on free disquisition rights because the band was still free to use the name even without trademark care. The same is true for the Redskins, but the team did not want to lose the legal immunities that go along with a registered trademark. The protections include barrier the sale of counterfeit merchandise and working to pursue a brand development scheme.
A federal appeals court had sided with the Slants in 2015, averring First Amendment protects «even hurtful speech that misfortunes members of oft-stigmatized communities.»