The Supreme Court of the United States decided in the case ofMatal v. Tam Monday to strike down a key provision of the Lanham Act barring the United States Patent and Trademark Office from recognizing a disparaging trademark, citing concerns that the act violated the First Amendment.
Trademark office spokesman Paul Fucito said officials are reviewing the court's ruling and planned to issue further guidance on how they will review trademark applications.
Justices, though, said that violated the First Amendment.
The National Football League team, which took the name Redskins in the 1930s, filed a legal challenge to a 2014 decision by a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal canceling its trademarks as disparaging to Native Americans. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the the court's opinion, agreed. It essentially kills any formal drive to legally pressure the team into changing its name.
A federal appeals court had sided with the Slants in 2015, saying First Amendment protects "even hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities". But previous year, it allowed Texas to ban specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag because it was considered a form of government speech.
When NPR asked Tam in January how he felt about Synder potentially benefiting from his lawsuit, he said, "We've been so obsessed with punishing villains like Dan Snyder, we don't realize that there is this impact on bystanders".
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"The Supreme Court vindicated the team's position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government's opinion", Blatt told the Associated Press.
The case essentially lets the Washington Redskins use their nickname and to continue profiting from the name as they had been fighting with the Trademark Office over its use.
Lisa Simpson, an intellectual property expert, characterized the Supreme Court's decision as a slippery slope.
The ruling means offensive trademarks can no longer be denied, even for names that intend to disparage individuals or groups of people, said Megan Carpenter, dean at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and an expert on trademark law.
A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all.
Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court after arguments were heard in the case and did not participate in Monday's decision. And the idea that our market will be flooded by people who just want to register marks on a whim is ridiculous. people have to have an established business goal, pay the fees, go through the paperwork and have their information in public. Those bystanders, in this case, would be the marginalized groups who have been trying to get their own trademarks registered.