Supreme Court: Rejecting trademarks that ‘disparage’ others violates the First Amendment – Washington Post

 In U.S.
The federal government has violated the First Amendment by refusing to register trademarks that officials consider disparaging, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday in a decision that provides a boost to the Washington Redskins’ efforts to hang on to the team’s controversial name.

The ruling came in a case that involved an Asian American rock group called the Slants, which tried to register the band’s name in 2011. The band was turned down by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because of a law against registering trademarks that are likely to disparage people or groups.

In a ruling against the government, the court said the “disparagement clause” of the federal trademark law was not constitutional, even though it was written evenhandedly, prohibiting trademarks that insult any group.

“This provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in a section of the opinion supported by all participating justices. “It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

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