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Rock band The Slants takes Trademark battle to Supreme Court

Simon Tam is founder of an Asian-American band called The Slants. When he applied for the band's name to be Trademarked, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected it, finding it offensive. Mr. Tam disagreed, and filed an appeal, claiming a violation of the band's right to free speech. The appeals court agreed and reversed the PTO's decision.

The Trademark dispute continues on, however. It has now been appealed by the Justice Department to the U.S. Supreme Court. The result of this ruling could have significant implications for future Trademark decisions.

The band maintains the position that they are not using the term "The Slants" in an offensive way, but rather are co-opting and making fun of the slur directed at Asian-Americans. 

"Simon Tam and his band members are not disparaging Asian Americans," the band's attorneys stated in a recent LA Times article. "They are doing precisely the opposite; they are appropriating a slur and using it as a badge of pride."

Legal counsel for The Slants also claims the PTO has been inconsistent regarding trademarks of this type, citing the approval of N.W.A., a rap group in the 80s and 90s whose name stood for "Niggaz Wit Attitude."

"The restriction of speech hurts marginalized communities," the band states on their website. "We should not discourage people from using wit, irony, or reappropriation to disarm the malicious. There should be a more culturally competent approach to avoid undermining the work of activists, artists, nonprofit groups, or businesses who use reappropriation to encourage, empower, and to educate."

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