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Supreme Court To Hear The Slants' Trademark Case This Week

<p>Band members (fromleft) Joe X. Jiang, Ken Shima, Simon Tam, and Yuya Matsuda.</p>

Sarah Giffrow


Band members (fromleft) Joe X. Jiang, Ken Shima, Simon Tam, and Yuya Matsuda.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week for a trademark dispute concerning the Portland dance-rock band, The Slants. The federal Patent and Trademark Office refuses to register the band’s trademark, because, the PTO argues, the band’s name is an ethnic slur.

Attorneys for the government argue that a ruling against the PTO in this case might undermine other important areas of trademark law.

Professor Eugene Volokh teaches First Amendment and copyright law at the UCLA School of Law. He and another professor helped The Slants’ legal team on briefs for the case. They contend the band’s right to register is a matter of free speech.

“In recent years the Patent and Trademark office has become more likely to say certain trademarks should be rejected," Volokh said, "because they express essentially offensive political or ideological opinions. So, for example, the Redskins.”

The Washington Redskins football team is awaiting the outcome of the Slants case. Its own trademark was revoked for similar reasons, and the team is trying to get it reinstated.

The Slants have traveled to Washington, D.C., for the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

April Baer