News From the First Amendment Committee

Thanks to ASJA’s membership in FEN (The Free Expression Network), we have been kept in the loop about the First Amendment case of “The Slants,” on which the Supreme Court just ruled.

The Slants is a small Asian American band from Oregon, which describes its style as “Chinatown dance rock;” its case began in 2010, when the U. S. Patent and Trademarks Office denied permission to register the band’s name because the office alleged that the name disparaged Asians. However, the band had chosen the name specifically to remove the derogatory connotation from the term and take it back, as older women have done for “crone” and gays have done for “queer.”

And thus began the band’s seven-year journey to protect its name. This journey has now ended with the Court’s ruling on June 19 that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act, the law that held that such names could not be protected, is invalid under the First Amendment, affirming once more that even speech we disagree with is protected. The band’s basic argument was that “marginalized groups should determine what’s best for ourselves.”

An interesting by-product of the ruling is that it may end up legitimizing the name of the football team the Washington Redskins, which many Native American groups have protested. To read more about the case and the ruling, see the links below:

Justices Strike Down Law Banning Disparaging Trademarks 

Why the Slants Took a Fight Over Their Band Name to the Supreme Court 

Should We Be Able to Reclaim a Racist Insult -- as a Registered Trademark? 

 

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