Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Supreme Court rules in favor of reclaimed slur as a band name

A June Supreme Court ruling may be of interest to New Jersey music lovers. A band by the name of The Slants consists of Asian-American members. The lead man in the group stated that the band name was meant to reclaim the offensive term so that it could be repurposed as a point of pride.

When the group attempted to register its name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, they were turned down. This led the front man of the band to file a lawsuit. He won a federal suit against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and when the office filed its own lawsuit, the Supreme Court sided with the band.

Four different opinions were written by the eight justices who participated in the unanimous decision. Justice Alito indicated that the disparagement clause in the Lanham Act which governs trademark registration was a violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union responded in agreement with the Supreme Court decision by pointing out that sometimes when trying to protect minority groups from disparagement, courts can hinder those same groups from successfully competing in an idea-driven economy.

Whenever a party has concerns about trademark law, it is often helpful to consult with a lawyer who has intellectual property experience. A lawyer who works in the area of trademark law might be able to look at a case concerning a name registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and help parties who are rejected by explaining their legal options to them.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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