Published: Mon, June 26, 2017
USA | By Kelli Rowe

Supreme Court Rules Denying Offensive Trademarks Violates First Amendment


The team's trademark registration was canceled in 2014 after decades of use.

In that case, the Asian-American rock band "The Slants" were denied protection under a provision of the 1946 Lanham Trademark Act that prohibits trademarks that may "disparage....or bring into contemp [t] or disrepute" any persons "living or dead". "The justices unanimously agreed that The Slants" First Amendment rights were violated when the government claimed the right to control their speech in exchange for offering a trademark. "If affixing the commercial label permits the suppression of any speech that may lead to political or social 'volatility, ' free speech would be endangered", he wrote. The team has not yet commented on the ruling, but did try to involve itself in the case while it was ongoing.

The Redskins' appeal on that decision was put on hold by a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., until the Supreme Court ruled on the Slants case.

It will, however, nearly certainly lead to a reversal of the trademark board's ruling, saving the team's six trademark protections it had canceled. It is likely to be remanded back to the original district court to re-examine it based on the recent Supreme Court ruling.

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Lisa Blatt, a lawyer representing the Redskins, said the team is equally happy because it resolves "the Redskins" long-standing dispute with the government'.

The Supreme Court has now affirmed the lower appeals court's opinion, which is also potentially welcome news for the NFL's Washington Redskins, whose own marks were canceled for being disparaging to Native Americans.

The cancelations were made at the request of Native American activists, who said the name was disparaging to Native Americans.

"If Daniel Snyder wants to get any public dollars for a new stadium, the likelihood of him being able to accomplish that in this environment is really slim until or unless he changes the name of the team", Carter said. That case is now in appeal, with the appeal put on hold to await the Supreme Court's verdict in The Slants case.

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That the team happens to be one of the National Football League's highest-profile franchises, in the nation's capital, adds injury to the insult.

This SCOTUS ruling protects Washington's First Amendment right to do just that.

The case could inform arguments over other, much larger entities than The Slants.

"I am THRILLED", he explained. "Hail to the Redskins".

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"They would never do this to black people" Bellecourt said. Even if the team lost the trademark protections, it wouldn't be forced to drop the name. Denying trademark registration, they said, was a form of viewpoint discrimination.The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal trademarks can be registered in most cases even if they are considered derogatory.

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