Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that parts of the Lanham Act infringed upon the rights provided in the first amendment. Up until this ruling, the United States Patent and Trade Office regularly denied trademark applications that were deemed too offensive or had disparaged other groups.
The case marks the end of an 8-year legal battle during which an Asian-American rock band fought for the rights to a U.S. Trademark Registration for their name, “The Slants.” The band, whose latest EP is titled “The Band Who Must Not Be Named” in dedication to their experience, seeks the “disarmament of toxic language and symbols,” according to a statement released on their website following the opinion.
Siding with the band and writing for the majority, Alito said “It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.” This opinion signals a change in the way trademarks are granted, and could impact the trademark rights of The Redskins NFL Football Team, whose case the Supreme Court declined to hear last October.