Asian-American rock band The Slants recently won a US Supreme Court Ruling in a trade mark dispute over the band’s name that some regard as an ethnic slur.
The band initially tried to register the band’s name as a trade mark at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) but the application was denied because of the Lanham Act, that prohibits any trademark that could “disparage … or bring … into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead,” as the court states..
Band members of The Slants said they wanted to reclaim the name that is often seen as a slur and that they had experienced as such in the past. By reclaiming the name as their band’s identity they hoped to bring empowerment to the phrase. In this recent ruling the Supreme Court deemed that members of the Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name.
Some say this decision is a victory for free speech and the decision from this case could inform arguments over many other future cases. This Supreme Court ruling could have a broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trade mark cases in the US.