Matal v. Tam: The Supreme Court Rejects the Prohibition on Disparaging Trademarks

Sean D. Detweiler (SDD)By: Sean Detweiler and Bianca Sena

On Monday June 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Trademark Office’s denial of registration for “disparaging” trademarks under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional. The case, Matal v. Tam (previously known as Lee v. Tam) concerned the federal trademark registration of “The Slants,” an all Asian-American rock band. The Court affirmed the Federal Circuit’s decision that Section 2(a) constituted viewpoint-based discrimination because it necessarily required a subjective value judgment on whether something is “disparaging.” The decision upended a portion of statute that has been in place since 1946. The decision will likely impact a parallel trademark case, Pro Football Inc. (a.k.a., the Redskins case), which involves the same disparagement clause section of the Lanham Act and cancellation of the Redskins trademark registrations.

For further detail, read “Matal v. Tam: The Supreme Court Rejects the Prohibition on Disparaging Trademarks”. For more information on trademarks, please contact Sean Detweiler.

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