The Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that might decide whether the government can deny Washington’s NFL team a trademark because it has deemed the team name is offensive.
The court granted certiorari on Lee V. Tam. If you remember, The Slants, an Asian-American rock band, sued the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because it refused to trademark their name saying it proved offensive.
In December of last year, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided that the band’s name was private speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment.
“At issue in the case was Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which allows the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to deny or cancel a trademark if it is “disparaging” of persons, institutions or national symbols.
“In a 10-2 decision, the court decided parts of that section were unconstitutional. Conferring a trademark, the court argues, does not make the band’s name government speech.