WASHINGTON — The Redskins’ long-standing court case to regain its trademark protection earned a boost on Monday after a Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court upheld an earlier U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision in favor of a rock band that had been denied a trademark for its name, which was deemed disparaging to others.
In that case, the Asian-American rock band “The Slants” were denied protection under a provision of the 1946 Lanham Trademark Act that prohibits trademarks that may “disparage….or bring into contemp[t] or disrepute” any persons “living or dead.”
The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of the band. In his opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that the trademark denial violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
The Redskins lost their own trademark registration in 2014 when the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in a 2-1 decision that the team name was disparaging to Native Americans.
A U.S. District Court judge upheld that ruling in 2015. The Redskins are currently appealing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th circuit in Richmond and believe the Supreme Court decision Monday will allow them to prevail, too.
“The Team is thrilled with today’s unanimous decision as it resolves the Redskins’ long-standing dispute with the government,” Redskins attorney Lisa Blatt wrote in a statement. “The Supreme Court vindicated the Team’s position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government’s opinion.”
The Redskins filed an amicus brief supporting the Supreme Court case brought by The Slants. Without a registered trademark, the organization would have no defense against copycat entrepreneurs.
“I am THRILLED!” Redskins owner Dan Snyder wrote in a statement released by the team. “Hail to the Redskins.”
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