Supreme Court pushes Redskins' name fight back to society

'Slants' Band Patent Allowed in Free Speech SCOTUS Win – 'Offensive' Redskins May Follow

Advocates to Fight Washington Team's Name, Despite Court Ruling in Similar Case

The Times argued in 2014 that it was "clear that federal law prohibits the Patent and Trademark Office from registering trademarks that disparage people or bring them 'into contempt, or disrepute'".

The ruling is expected to have a direct impact on another high-profile case involving the National Football League's Washington Redskins.

This is strong medicine, both in terms of the support it offers free speech and in terms of what it requires of those who do take offense at expressions likely to enjoy court protection as a result of this opinion - specifically the Washington football team's name...

The court case stems from a 2011 attempt by the band's founder Simon Tam to trademark the band's name. Justice Samuel Alito, who delivered the majority opinion of the court, said Tam chose the name of the band "to "reclaim" the term and drain its denigrating force".

"This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it's been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what's best for ourselves", Tam wrote.

The Supreme Court yesterday struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks.

Over the years, some companies and organizations, such as the Washington Redskins, have found themselves unable to trademark their names because they were deemed offensive.

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder says he's "thrilled" about the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the disparagement clause in trademark law.

"If Daniel Snyder wants to get any public dollars for a new stadium, the likelihood of him being able to accomplish that in this environment is really slim until or unless he changes the name of the team", Carter said.

"The team is thrilled with today's unanimous decision as it resolves the Redskins' long-standing dispute with the government", Lisa Blatt, an attorney for the team and a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, said in an emailed statement.

If the band members had meant their name to be a derogation, that, too, would have been protected speech.

This is classic safe-space reasoning - the harm that would allegedly befall some portion of a group from encountering an offending trademark should trump the free-speech rights of the likes of "The Slants".

Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the case, which was argued before he joined the court. Wrote Kennedy: "To permit viewpoint discrimination in this context is to permit Government censorship".

The court ruled in an 8-0 decision that the "disparagement clause" of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment's free speech clause. Trademark protection gives an individual or a company the right to block the sales of merchandise using the company's name or some other distinctive symbol the company uses.

In a statement after the Supreme Court's decision, the tribal council of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi said issues like health care, education, and safe and affordable housing are the most pressing issues but they are also committed to curbing offensive behavior.

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