Most businesses, individuals and performance groups in California who seek success through the creation of a product or brand want to protect their hard work. In order to prevent others from profiting from their brand, they seek to register trademarks with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. However, one band has pursued intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court after the USPTO denied its request to register the band's trademark.
The case involves an Asian-American band. The group attempted to register the band name, The Slants. The USPTO denied the request, citing that the 1946 Lanham Act bans the registration of trademarks that are racial slurs. The band argues that the name they have chosen is not a slur, instead describing it as a "badge of pride." The group asserts the law is a violation of its first amendment rights.
The case was heard by the U.S Court of Appeals in 2015, which sided with the band. The court ruled that the provision banning racial slurs unlawfully regulates speech. However, the USPTO continues to argue that because the group can still use and enforce the trademark without registration, the right to free speech has not been violated.
The decision that the Supreme Court makes in this case could have a significant impact on trademarks. In fact, another case involving the revocation of many marks related to the Redskins' football team because the name is considered racist by some has been put on hold until the Supreme Court issues a ruling in the band's case. Trademark issues are complex, as these cases demonstrate. Often, those in California interested in protecting their brand choose to seek help from an attorney with experience regarding such cases in order to ensure they fully understand the issues involved in securing such protection.
Source: thefashionlaw.com, "The 5 Intellectual Property Cases that You Cannot Miss in 2017", Jan. 10, 2017