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Monday, 19 June 2017 14:30

Supreme Court Rules Trademark Ban on Offensive Speech is Unconstitutional

Written by  Mary Chastain

Supreme Court rules in favor of The Slants in trademark dispute

The Supreme Court has ruled 8-0 that it is unconstitutional for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to not register offensive names under the federal trademark law’s disparagement clause.

The Asian-American band The Slants did not receive a trademark due to this clause, which the justices found violated free speech. From CNN:

“Holding that the registration of a trademark converts the mark into government speech would constitute a huge and dangerous extension of the government-speech doctrine, for other systems of government registration (such as copyright) could easily be characterized in the same way,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

“The commercial market is well stocked with merchandise that disparages prominent figures and groups, and the line between commercial and non-commercial speech is not always clear, as this case illustrates,” Alito added. “If affixing the commercial label permits the suppression of any speech that may lead to political or social ‘volatility,’ free speech would be endangered.”

This is what 15 U.S. Code § 1052 states:

(a) Consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute; or a geographical indication which, when used on or in connection with wines or spirits, identifies a place other than the origin of the goods and is first used on or in connection with wines or spirits by the applicant on or after one year after the date on which the WTO Agreement (as defined in section 3501(9) of title 19) enters into force with respect to the United States.

Read more at LegalInsurrection

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