The Asian American band the Slants celebrated its hard-earned Supreme Court victory Monday, saying the fight to trademark its racially charged name “has always been much bigger than our band: it’s been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what’s best for ourselves.”
The journey to trademark a name that has historically been a racial slur was nearly eight years in the making and “excruciating,” the band said on Facebook.
“[W]e’re beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court,” wrote band frontman Simon Tam, who filed the original lawsuit against the Patent and Trademark Office.
“During the fight, we found the Trademark Office justifying the denial of rights to people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, and political views, simply because they disagreed with the message of these groups.”
Indeed, the decision — which struck down the “disparagement clause” of 1946’s Lanham Act, the federal statute governing trademarks — is seen as likely to pave the way for the Washington Redskins to trademark that name.
Speaking for the 8-0 majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that the provision violated “a bedrock 1st Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.” The court took on the case late in September and arguments were heard in January.
Said Tam, “The establishment of an Asian American band was a political act in of itself, even though we never considered ourselves as a political group.”
In addition to offering up the lyrics of its song “From the Heart” (“Sorry if you take offense / You made up rules and played pretend / We know you fear change / It’s something so strange / But nothing’s gonna get in our way”), the band celebrated in a way appropriate to musicians: It released an extended version of the music video for “Level Up,” embedded below.
The band’s most recent EP, by the way, is titled “The Band That Must Not Be Named.” It was dedicated, Tam said, to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.