"The Supreme Court has held that Congress can not keep disparaging trademarks out of the federal registration program", they said, "but the Court did nothing to cast doubt on the prior judicial findings that the Washington NFL team's name and trademarks disparage Native Americans".
It also gives a major boost to the Washington Redskins in the team's legal fight after their trademark was canceled due to complaints from Native-Americans.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused in 2011 to grant the name government protection, citing a federal law that forbids issuing trademarks that may disparage people "or bring them into contempt or disrepute".
The Washington Redskins' name is commercial speech and isn't the kind of free expression protected by the First Amendment, the Obama administration told a federal court this week in defending a ruling that has stripped the football team of trademark protections. But then a majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the law violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. The original trademark was rejected because the band's name was considered a disparaging term. Washington has filed for trademarks on "Redskins" four times since 1967.
The outcome of The Slants' case will shape the resolution of the Washington Redskin's battle with the PTO.
The Supreme Court past year rejected the team's petition to have its case heard alongside The Slants' case, and the team's appeal of the initial trademark board ruling is still winding through lower courts.
The head of an Ohio American Indian group says a Supreme Court decision to strike down the disparagement clause in trademark law won't affect efforts to get the Cleveland Indians to change their Chief Wahoo logo and nickname.
"This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it's been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what's best for ourselves", he said.
The Supreme Court says Muslim men detained after the September 11 attacks can't sue top USA law enforcement officials.
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. If the team regains protection under the Lanham Act, it streamlines the process of defending their trademark.
The case before the Supreme Court involved a musician, Simon Tam, who was denied trademark registration for the name of his band, The Slants, under the Lanham Act. That court was waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on Matal v. Tam before it made its decision. "The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government's benevolence. For these reasons, we hold that the disparagement clause violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment".
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