SCOTUS struck down a federal law that denies trademark protection of terms that disparage the living or dead, or you know, an entire class of people:
The case at hand involves Simon Tam, an Asian-American musician and political activist who named his rock band “The Slants” in an attempt to take back a term that once directed as an insult. He sought to register the name with the trademark office.
I’m old enough to remember outrage at the gay punk band Pansy Division.
The unintended consequence?
…”The case also has obvious implications for the similar dispute involving the Washington Redskins, who had their trademark canceled under the same statute and theory that the justices invalidated today,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN legal analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of law. “It should now follow that their trademark also should not have been invalidated.”
The Washington Redskins Attorney Lisa Blatt said the team was “thrilled” with the decision.
“The Team is thrilled with today’s unanimous decision as it resolves the Redskins’ long-standing dispute with the government,” she told CNN in a statement. “The Supreme Court vindicated the Team’s position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or canceling a trademark registration based on the government’s opinion.”
The more free speech the better, but I’m hoping that it doesn’t mean open season on disparaging names for products and services. We have a long history of product with racist imagery/names (see above, for instance) that wisely moved on. Richard Spencer, the Fascist Alt-Right leader, must be popping wood today thinking about the possibilities.