A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the provision used to strike down the Washington Redskins trademark is unconstitutional.
In Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, a Federal Circuit Court ruled that the federal government cannot ban or censor offensive speech in trademarks under the protection of the First Amendment.
The ruling, in favor of a band called ‘The Slants,’ vacates the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to refuse trademark registration to the Oregon-based music act on the grounds that it would offend Asian Americans.
The same U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that has ruled to cancel the Redskins’ trademark registrations on the grounds that the name is offensive, on the basis of the Lanham Act, which bans trademarks of a disparaging nature.
“Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities,” the appeals court said in a statement. “But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech. The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproved of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks.”
The Redskins’ trademark is under review at the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
Based on Tuesday’s ruling, the expectation is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision on the Redskins’ trademark registrations too will be vacated based on the precedent in D.C..
Sportact Editors and Wire Services