Seven years ago, the Asian-American Rock Band from Oregon started an application to register their name, “The Slants” as a Trademark. The USPTO, who didn’t seem to appreciate the irony of this name rejected the registration based on the Lanham Act. According to the national office, an Asian-American Band using “The Slants” to identify themselves is Racially disparaging to the Asian community.
Recently questioned about this matter, the lead singer of The Slants explained that the exact reason why they chose to be called “The Slants” is to drain the word from its hateful impact on the Asian community. Each of the member grew up dealing with other kids at school pulling their eyes back in a slant eyes gesture to make fun of them. They believe that if they weren’t Asian looking, the Trademark would have been granted by the USPTO. This is why the registration of this Trademark became, for them, a fight for their freedom of speech. As such, they brought the fight to the Supreme Court.
On June 19, based on the First amendment, The Supreme Court disagreed with the USPTO’s judgement and unanimously ruled that the refusal to register the name as a Trademark violated the freedom of Speech, therefore, they have the constitutional right to be named The Slants.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comment the decision as follow: “everyone knows that The Slants is using this term not at all to disparage but simply to describe”
The Court added, that the USPTO isn’t authorized to engage in viewpoint discriminations by deciding which trademark is too offensive to be registered.
This decision can be linked with the recent Redskins controversy or the Cleveland Indians one, although, in both cases, racial progression wasn’t the goal. What’s certain now is that we can be prepared to see the USPTO being more permissive with what is offensive or not especially when there’s a progression fight on the background of the registration.
© 2017 Olfa B’Chir