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UCLA School of Law's Supreme Court clinic wins landmark trademark case

20 June 2017

The federal practice of denying trademarks because they're deemed derogatory "offends a bedrock First Amendment principle:. peech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend", Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court.

The decision was expected to open the floodgates for offensive terms to be registered as trademarks in the US.

"After an excruciating legal battle that has spanned almost eight years, we're beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court", Tam said in a statement.

But both opinions held that an Asian-American band could indeed trademark its (ironic) name, The Slants.

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It was under the disparagement clause that Blackhorse and a group of other plaintiffs got the Patent and Trademark Office to say in 2014 that the Washington team could not have a trademark on the name "Redskins" - a decision that the team has challenged in court.

"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.

A district court in Virginia upheld the cancellation in 2015, and so the team appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which put the case aside while The Slants case-officially Matal v. Tam-was considered by the Supreme Court.

Even though the government issues trademarks, the court decided trademarked phrases are private speech and that the government can't censor private speech just because of the message. Alito rejected arguments that the government has an interest in preventing speech that is offensive to certain groups. In preserving First Amendment rights, the Supreme Court ruling, according to Tam's post, empowers Americans who can now "decide who should prevail in the marketplace ideas rather than a lone examining attorney".

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Owner Dan Snyder said he was "thrilled" by the ruling, and lawyer Lisa Blatt said it resolves the team's dispute and vindicated its position.

"The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government's benevolence", Kennedy writes.

It's a victory for Tam, The Slants and free speech.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office appealed that ruling to the high court in April, and the justices granted certiorari in September. The office said the word "slants", which has been used as a racial slur referring to the eyes of Asian people, offends Asians. And the justices managed to split 4-4 as to why that law is unconstitutional. Since 1946, the US trademark law has included a provision that barred the government from registering trademarks that may "disparage" people or groups.

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UCLA School of Law's Supreme Court clinic wins landmark trademark case