June 19, 2017
Potentially Offensive Trademarks Are OK
Until today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) could refuse to register trademarks (or cancel trademarks) on grounds that they were potentially disparaging or offensive. In 2014, the USPTO used this provision to cancel trademarks for the Washington Redskins find they were offensive to Native Americans. It also relied on this provision to deny a trademark to a band called the Slants, a term the USPTO concluded was offensive to Asian-Americans, but which the Slants said was an effort to reclaim a previously derogatory term. The Supreme Court today concluded: “Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”
If you’re curious, the decision is available here.