Justices say government can't refuse disparaging trademarks

Then US Attorney General John Ashcroft and now former FBI director Robert Mueller were among senior officials involved in controversial security measures taken following the September 11 attacks in 2001

Still, the implications of today's ruling are clear for the team, which put its appeal of a federal judge's upholding the USPTO's decision on hold pending the Supreme Court's decision in the Slants case.

Members of the Portland, Oregon-based Asian-American rock band The Slants (L-R) Tyler Chen, Ken Shima, Simon Tam, Joe X. Jiang pose in Portland, Oregon, U.S., August 21, 2015 in a picture released by band representatives.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office fought the band's application, citing a 70-year-old statute - section 2A of the Lanham Act - that has guided policy on potentially-offensive business and product names. The football team's legal challenge, now on hold in a Virginia appeals court, will likely be bolstered by the ruling in Tam, since the Redskins' lawyers could argue that any effort to permanently revoke the emblem would amount to government censorship. The court decided the ban on registering "scandalous, immoral, or disparaging remarks" violated the First Amendment.

"The Supreme Court vindicated the team's position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government's opinion", Blatt said.

The Government has an interest in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend.

"The Supreme Court has held that Congress can not keep disparaging trademarks out of the federal registration program", they said, "but the Court did nothing to cast doubt on the prior judicial findings that the Washington NFL team's name and trademarks disparage Native Americans". As Slants bassist Simon Tam told Reason.tv's Meredith Bragg, the whole point of the band's provocative name was to challenge anti-Asian stereotypes. It is expressing contradictory views.

After a federal court agreed with Tam and his band, the Patent and Trademark Office sued to avoid being compelled to register its name as a trademark.

Robert Mueller former FBI director is now a special counsel leading a probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election
Robert Mueller former FBI director is now a special counsel leading a probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election

Snyder has said he would "NEVER" change the name. But they raised the bar for trademark denials so that names deemed to be offensive but not hateful can survive.

In a complex, multipart decision with which all of the justices (except Neil Gorsuch) concurred at least in part, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the government has no business regulating what is and is not considered offensive.

"It is not an anti-discrimination clause; it is a happy-talk clause", Alito wrote.

Hopefully, this ruling will make everything simpler, but it also allows for the possibility of a great deal of hurtful trademarks.

The justices declined to review the ruling that dismissed claims by Ohio's Democratic Party and homeless rights groups that the state's "perfect form" law, which invalidates ballots for even minor errors, deprived thousands of people of their right to vote, violating the federal Voting Rights Act.

"This is true of services that benefit everyone, like police and fire protection, as well as services that are utilized by only some, e.g., the adjudication of private lawsuits and the use of public parks and highways", the ruling states.

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