Asian-American Rock Band The Slants Win Historic Trademark Case

14 January 2016 | 5:12 pm | Staff Writer

Perfect timing before they head out on tour.

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Asian-American outfit The Slants have won a historic trademark case after fighting for the right to trademark their band name for six years. 

Following December's verdict in which the United States Courts of Appeal for the Federal Circuit ruled that the dance-rock group had the right to register their trademark, the appeals court has today ruled that the US Patent & Trademark Office and the Department of Justice violated The Slants' First Amendment rights. 

The Trademark Office initially tried to prevent the band from trademarking their name in 2010 as they considered it a "disparaging term".

However in a 9-3 vote, the appeals court dismissed the "disparagement" section of the Lanham Act established in 1946 that allows the Trademark Office to deny marks that could be considered "scandalous, immoral or disparaging". 

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Judge Kimberly Moore said of the case, "Courts have been slow to appreciate the expressive power of trademarks...Words — even a single word — can be powerful.

"Mr. Simon Tam named his band The Slants to make a statement about racial and cultural issues in this country. With his band name, Mr. Tam conveys more about our society than many volumes of undisputedly protected speech."

Meanwhile, frontman Simon Tam called the decision an "incredible victory".

"No one starts a band expecting to spend over half a decade in court," Tam said. 

"What began as an uphill battle against the government turned into an opportunity to overturn an outdated law that has been used to suppress the voices of marginalized communities."

The government has 90 days to appeal the ruling and petition the Supreme Court to re-hear the case, while the Slants are set to embark on tour from tomorrow. 

"While we might be dragged into court again, we’re going to enjoy the moment and focus on our music and touring," Tam continued.

"We have a lot of exciting things coming up for next year and life would definitely be easier if I didn't need to focus on a legal battle for once."