The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in Lee v. Tam, the much-anticipated case over trademark registration, free speech, and disparaging names. The Slants, an Asian-American "Chinatown dance rock" band, had its trademark rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Slants' name, the PTO explained, was the sort of "scandalous, immoral, or disparaging mark" for which the Lanham Act denies trademark protection.
That decision eventually led the Federal Circuit to strike down the act's "disparaging marks" provisions as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. That's a ruling that could reach well beyond The Slants -- and straight to the Redskins, the Washington, D.C. football team that has been fighting its own offensive name dispute for years.