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Washington Redskins win their trademark case

posted 6/19/2017 6:29:56 PM |
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tagged: sports, news, politics, law

The right decision was made!

The Supreme Court extended trademark protection on Monday to words and names that may be offensive, ruling that the 1st Amendment right to free speech allows an Asian American band to call itself “The Slants.”

The unanimous decision will also likely preserve the trademarked and controversial name of the Redskins, Washington’s pro-football team.

In recent years, such trademarked names have come under attack as racially offensive. Since 1946, the U.S. trademark law has included a provision that barred the government from registering trademarks that may “disparage” people or groups.

The case of the Slants raised questions about government’s efforts to police names that may be offensive to one group or another. Simon Tam, the leader of the Portland, Ore.-based band, said he chose the name to make fun of a word that had been used as a slur against Asians, and thereby to “drain” it of any derogatory impact, as the court put it.

An examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did not share in the joke and refused Tam’s request to trademark the band’s name. The examiner cited dictionaries that defined “slants” or “slant-eyes” as a derogatory or offensive term.

Rather than second-guess that judgment, the Supreme Court instead struck down the part of the law that called for making such assessments. “We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the 1st Amendment,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said. “It offends a bedrock 1st Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

The legal dispute turned on the nature of trademarks. Are they the words of a private person, or are they official words being spoken and endorsed by the government?

Two years ago, in a somewhat similar case, the high court ruled that specialty license plates represent the speech of the government, not the car owner. Therefore the state of Texas could refuse a request from the Sons of Confederate Vets to issue a license plate featuring a Confederate battle flag. By a 5-4 vote, the court upheld the state’s decision and rejected the free-speech claim from the Sons of Confederate Vets.

But in Monday’s opinion, the justices decided that “trademarks are private, not government, speech.”

Alito said that trademarks historically were used by businesses to identify their products. People and companies can seek to register their trademarks with the federal office. And doing so gives them extra legal protection against others using the same mark.
But registering the trademark does not convert it into the government's message, he said. And if so, the government has no authority to discriminate against some words and messages that it finds troubling.

“We have said time and time again that the ‘public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers,’” Alito said in the case of Matal vs. Tam.

Alito worried that if the court were to uphold the government’s power to deny trademarks in this case, it might suggest the government also could refuse to issue copyrights for books whose message was deemed offensive.
The Redskins football team had been in danger of losing its trademark protection. The federal office and a federal judge said the team should have its trademark revoked because the name was offensive to Native Americans. But the team had appealed, and it looks sure to prevail after Monday’s ruling.

Most experts in trademark law welcomed the decision. “It “makes sense in a lot of ways. Registering a trademark does not mean that word or group of words is government speech,” said Roy Gutterman, a Syracuse University law professor.

But others saw potential for problems. “It seems this decision will indeed open the floodgates to applications of all sort of potentially offensive and hateful marks,” said Lisa Simpson, a New York lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law. “While this may be right under the 1st Amendment, it seems the responsibility will now pass to the public. And so it will be up to consumers to reject the most hateful of these marks and slogans.”

L.A. Times

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Jun 19 @ 6:35PM  
thanks for the update .....

Jun 19 @ 6:50PM  
Good news that one of the most storied franchise in the NFL,,the Washington Redskins can move forward with their name and history intact.

Jun 19 @ 8:24PM  
Funny but I never find that offensive, or the Atlanta Braves neither. Maybe the opposite, like a compliment to the Natives
Now about the Confederate flag in the article, thats another story as it represents..... another story.

Jun 19 @ 8:38PM  
The confederate flag is a thing from the should be abolished...

Alot of college/professional teams carry the emblem of the native american...

I personally feel that this is a kind gesture and out of respect for the history of the redman

Back in the day..with a printing backround...I printed and sold many tee shirts with the slogan....


Jun 19 @ 9:31PM  
excellent blog...

The unanimous decision will....


Jun 20 @ 1:06AM  
It is not so much the names rather than the name combined with cartoonish type mascots that have been the problem for the majority of Native Americans, Perhaps they should start their own teams and call them things like the Irish Drunks and names like that, Combined those things are offensive and I am pretty sure this is not the end of the matter.

Jun 20 @ 1:20AM  
I am pretty sure this is not the end of the matter
I'mmmm pretty sure it is. The Supreme Court has spoken. Thankfully there's a lot of people that don't feel the way you do.

Irish Drunks
Is that how you really feel about the Irish?

Seriously, lighten up already, and quit being angry and offended over every little thing in life.


Jun 20 @ 7:42AM  
Two thumbs up!

Jun 20 @ 7:53AM  
My two cents for what they're worth, good call for the Supreme Court and... GO BRAVES!

Jun 20 @ 11:09AM  
PC be damned especially in sports.As regards the Confederate flag.....seems to me that such an important part of our history is in danger of becoming extinct. Our monuments to our history are being removed, our classrooms being prohibited from speaking about our past. When we forget who we were or how we came to be, we lose track of where we are going.
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