Trademark Law

Band can't trademark disparaging name, Federal Circuit says; judge raises First Amendment concerns

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The Slants

Photo courtesy of “The Slants”

A band that describes its music as “Chinatown dance rock” cannot trademark its name because it is disparaging to Asians, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled.

Band front man Simon Shiao Tam had sought to trademark the name “the Slants,” saying he wanted to “own” the stereotype it represents, according to the Federal Circuit’s April 20 opinion (PDF).

The Federal Circuit panel said the trademark was appropriately denied under a Lanham Act provision authorizing denial of trademarks that disparage or that consist of immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter. Reuters and the Recorder have stories.

Judge Kimberly Moore, who wrote the majority opinion, also filed a separate opinion (PDF) saying it is time for the Federal Circuit to re-examine the Lanham Act provision in light of First Amendment concerns.

According to the Recorder, Moore’s separate opinion, “appears to be a shot in the ongoing legal battle” over the trademark for Washington’s NFL team, which lost six trademarks in June 2014 because the name is disparaging to Native Americans.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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