By Brent Kendall | The Wall Street Journal
The U.S. government can’t reject trademarks that some people might find disparaging or offensive, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, citing constitutional free-speech protections.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington struck down a nearly 70-year-old provision in federal law and sided with Simon Tam, the frontman for the Asian-American rock band the Slants. Mr. Tam had sought to register the band’s name, but a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examiner denied the registration, saying the phrase was likely disparaging to people of Asian descent.
“I agree with the dissenting opinion. Free speech, even that which is offensive, is and should be entitled to protection. That stated, nothing in the Constitution compels the government to give such language its blessing, let alone government-sanctioned monopolistic rights to exclusively use the offensive term.
“Even without a trademark or copyright, this band would be free to continue using its desired band name. This decision is another salvo in the battle over intellectual property rights that will almost surely make its way to the Supreme Court.”
~ Evan Bolick