Legal imbroglios make strange and often unwanted bedfellows.
For over five years, Portland dance-rock band the Slants fought to trademark its name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had refused, on the grounds that the moniker violates a statute in the 1946 Lanham Act against trademarks considered "scandalous, disparaging or immoral."
See, the band is Asian-American, and because of that, the phrase "slant" takes on a derogatory connotation—never mind that the whole point is to reclaim a slur and drain its power to offend.
Anyway, it's been a long, complicated journey for the band, whose attempts to appeal the original decision came up empty until December, when a federal circuit court ruled that the provision in the Lanham Act used to block their trademark is a violation of the First Amendment. It was a major victory for the band—their first.
But the patent office has still not issued a trademark, and on April 20 the patent office asked the Supreme Court to consider the case.
And according to The Washington Post, the embattled Washington Redskins hope the ruling can help their own trademark fight.
In case you've spent the last few decades under a rock in outer space, the NFL team's name and logo has long been considered offensive to Native Americans.
Last July, a federal judge ordered the cancellation of the team's trademark registrations, citing the part of the Lanham Act that has since been deemed unconstitutional in the Slants ruling.
The team appealed the July decision—and now the Post reports the Redskins organization is hoping to piggyback off the appeals court's ruling in the Slants' case and go straight to the high court.
In a petition filed Monday, the Redskins suggested that the Supreme Court not consider the issue of that provision’s possible unconstitutionality until after their appeal, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, is heard. However, the petition asked that if the high court were to take up the Slants’ case, called Tam, then it should have its case heard alongside it, “as an essential and invaluable complement to Tam.”
The team's argument for essentially connecting the two cases is that it "would allow the justices to consider the question of the Lanham Act provision's unconstitutionality 'presented in a wider range of circumstances,' as well as to 'resolve intertwined, equally important questions, and avoid piecemeal review,'" the Post reports.
“It’s still important to realize that censorship is not how you solve racist speech,” Tam said. “It’s about having more nuanced discussions and better speech.”