Disparagement, Contempt, and Disrepute
Simon Tam named his band “The Slants” as a way to fight back against racism and take back the word as a form of self-empowerment. But when he tried to register the name as a trademark, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied the application and refused to register the trademark under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act. This law allowed the PTO to refuse a trademark if it could be considered disparaging. No one outside of the PTO actually found the band name disparaging. In this episode of Make No Law, the First Amendment Podcast by Popehat.com, host Ken White examines the Matal v. Tam case in which the Supreme Court vindicated Simon Tam and The Slants, finding that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act -- which allows the PTO to deny trademarks it finds offense -- violates the First Amendment. In the episode, Simon Tam himself explains how the PTO substituted its own judgment for the advocacy of Asian-Americans trying to highlight and fight back against racism. This episode also features quotes from the justices involved and music from The Slants.