In a fight that went all the way to Washington, DC, The Slants–a band that bills itself is the first all-Asian American dance rock band–have won the right to trademark their name. Amber Healy of sister site Geeks&Beats has been on this story from the beginning.
In a powerfully worded decision released early Tuesday morning– when the case’s namesake was likely still asleep in Oregon– the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sided with Simon Tam and his band, The Slants, that they should be permitted to trademark their name.
This is a developing story and, in true Washington, DC fashion, the decision came in the middle of a dead news week when no one’s paying much attention due to the Christmas holiday. We’ll have more information in the next few weeks after I get a chance to talk with Simon Tam, but the wording of the court’s decision seemed too good not to share now.
A little background: The Slants is a four-member Asian-American dance pop band based in Portland, Oregon. More than five years ago, a friend suggested to Tam that he file a trademark for the name for marketing purposes, but the US Patent and Trademark Office rejected the registration, claiming the name was offensive to Asian Americans. In a series of court hearings and trials, Tam often has been unable to speak on his on behalf, relying instead on teams of largely Caucasian attorneys to argue his case for him while another team of Caucasian attorneys cite the Lanham Act, an archaic and often forgotten part of US law adopted in 1946 to establish a national system for the registration and issuance of trademarks. Tam has noted in conversations with Geeks & Beats and other publications that several other trademarks have been issued using the word “slant,” but only his bands’ application has been rejected. This court case has drawn support from varied groups often at odds with each other, including the Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, whose own name has been the subject of a similar lawsuit filed with the Patent office.
This is a First Amendment case because it questions whether the use of the Lanham Act to reject a trademark or patent constitutes a limitation on free expression, something the court, in this ruling, seems to agree is the case and therefore a violation of the Constitution.
Read the whole story here. It’s fascinating.