Supreme Court Ruling on Disparaging Trademark Name Case

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that words may be registered as trademarks in the United States Trademark Office even if the words are offensive and disparaging. A federal law that prohibited registration of offensive or disparaging words as trademarks was declared to be unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech.

The case decided by the Supreme Court arises from the trademark application of a rock band comprised of Asian Americans that calls itself “The Slants.” The Trademark Office had refused registration because it found the term “Slants” to be a racially and ethnically derogatory. The Supreme Court found that the word “Slants” can be registered as a trademark even if some people find the term to be offensive.

This case opens the door for re-registration of the word “Redskins” as the name of the Washington football team in the NFL. The U.S. Trademark Office had previously cancelled the football team’s trademark registration under the “offensive and disparaging” provision, which the Supreme Court struck down.