Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

The Slants and the Redskins may head to the Supreme Court

New Jersey football and rock fans alike might be interested in a pair of cases that may be heading to the Supreme Court this year. The cases, involving an Asian-American rock band named "The Slants" and the Washington Redskins, deal with the pair's fight to trademark their respective names in the face of a federal law prohibiting trademark protection for names considered offensive.

The Slants applied for a trademark for their band name in 2011. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the group's application because it found that the name disparaged people of Asian descent. The Slants filed a constitutional challenge to the federal law prohibiting trademarking names that are offensive to different groups under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A federal appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled for the band, finding that the law is unconstitutional. The U.S. government filed an appeal.

In 2015, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sought to cancel the trademark for the Redskins. The team is fighting that decision as well and might join the Slants in their case if the Supreme Court agrees to hear it.

People who apply for trademark protection do so to prevent others from co-opting their names in order to make profits off of them. In the Redskins' case, the team is arguing that if their trademark is canceled, they stand to lose millions to people selling counterfeit goods. An intellectual law attorney may help his or her client with filing the trademark application. A legal professional may be able to litigate on his or her client's behalf if the application for trademark protection is denied.

Source: Yahoo, "Redskins, rock band battle government in trademark fight," Sept. 19, 2016.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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