If the Washington Redskins ever change their nickname and mascot from what it is today if will be made by the team and not by court order. In a ruling made yesterday by the United States Supreme Court, an eight to zero vote to allow a rock group called the “Slants” to continue to use that name is good news for the NFL team in the nation’s capital.
The US Patient Office had rejected “the Slants” a name copyright as of being discriminating. As explained by Sports Illustrated:
In Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, a section better known as the “disparagement clause.” Until Monday, the clause had authorized the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) to cancel a trademark—which is a word, symbol or other mark that distinguishes a source of goods from others and can be registered with the federal government—if it disparages a substantial percentage of a distinct group of people, be it a racial, ethnic, religious or political group.
In a unanimlous 8–0 decision (the recently appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch was not on the bench when the case was argued and thus played no role in the decision), the Supreme Court held that the disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. While the eight justices offered somewhat different styles of logic for their decision, they collectively valued the Free Speech Clause’s instruction that the government shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech of private citizens and businesses. Put simply: Under the Free Speech Clause, the government cannot decide which viewpoints it likes and doesn’t like. Stressing that trademark law is primarily designed to assist consumers in distinguishing between products and to safeguard companies’ investments in their name and brand, the Court regards governmental regulation of free speech as outside the scope of trademark law.
The push to force the Redskins to change their name through the courts is basically dead The court of public opinion will continue. With the highest court in the land allowing “The Slants” to thrive, so will the Washington Redskins.
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