Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ruling Could Help Washington Redskins in Trademark Case; New York Times, 12/22/15

Richard Sandomir, New York Times; Ruling Could Help Washington Redskins in Trademark Case:
"The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington made the ruling in a case involving an Asian-American dance-rock band that sought to register a trademark for its provocative name, the Slants. The court said the First Amendment “forbids government regulators to deny registration because they find the speech likely to offend others.”
Writing for the majority, Kimberly A. Moore, a judge on the appeals court, said: “It is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment that the government may not penalize private speech merely because it disapproves of the message it conveys.”...
Still, Tuesday’s ruling was considered a major one in trademark law — the striking down of a provision of the nearly 70-year-old Lanham Act that deals with disparaging or offensive trademarks.
“The majority opinion is a very broad rejection of the proposition that the federal government can refuse registration or use of a trademark based on whether certain groups find the mark to be disparaging,” said Jeremy Sheff, a law professor at St. John’s University School of Law who specializes in intellectual property. “It was exactly on that basis that the Redskins’ marks were canceled.”
Whatever happens in the appeals court to the Redskins’ registered trademarks, the team’s use of its name is not in jeopardy. Although it symbolizes racism and intolerance to some, and has inspired groups to demand that it be replaced, the Redskins’ owner, Daniel Snyder, has vowed never to drop it. He has fought a public battle to prove the name does not offend all Native Americans. And he has the backing of the N.F.L., which has been paying the costs of defending the trademarks."

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