Sunday, 17 December, 2017

US Supreme Court blocks law banning offensive trademarks

Bush admin officials can’t be held liable for post-9/11 Muslim profiling & abuse SCOTUS rules Yuri Gripas Reuters
Felix Bryan | 20 June, 2017, 00:10

The Supreme Court of the United States decided in the case ofMatal v. Tam Monday to strike down a key provision of the Lanham Act barring the United States Patent and Trademark Office from recognizing a disparaging trademark, citing concerns that the act violated the First Amendment.

The band filed a lawsuit after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the band's trademark registration, citin the Lanham Act, which prohibits any trademark that could "disparage ... or bring ... into contemp [t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead", according to NPR.

The justices ruled Monday that a federal appeals court was wrong to consider the merits of Percy Hutton's claim that his trial judge gave jurors faulty instructions during sentencing. She said the nickname is a racist slur that never should have been trademarked in the first place. The case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, pending the Supreme Court's decision in the Slants case.

"Holding that the registration of a trademark converts the mark into government speech would constitute a huge and unsafe extension of the government-speech doctrine, for other systems of government registration [such as copyright] could easily be characterized in the same way", Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

That appears to mean that the Redskins also will be able to continue using their name, even though it offends people as well. Ultimately, however, the sentiment is similar that the government must be careful about interfering with free speech.

Despite intense public pressure to change the Redskins name, team owner Dan Snyder has refused, saying in the past that it "represents honor, respect and pride" for Native Americans.

The band has said it wanted to reclaim what is often seen as a slur.

The ruling likely paves the way for the Redskins to protect trademarks covering the team's name. Snyder issued a quick statement after Monday's decision: "I am THRILLED".

The court also said the Voting Rights Act provision at issue could only be enforced by the US attorney general, and lawsuits by private parties were barred.

In the separate Redskins case, a trademark board in 2014 canceled the team's six trademarks at the request of Native American activists on grounds that the team name disparaged Native Americans.

"The Supreme Court vindicated the team's position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government's opinion", Blatt told the Associated Press. Those bystanders, in this case, would be the marginalized groups who have been trying to get their own trademarks registered.

Government officials said the law did not infringe on free speech rights because the band was still free to use the name even without trademark protection.

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