Offensive trademark ruling could help Washington Redskins in name fight

WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government can't refuse to register trademarks that might be considered disparaging or offensive, a decision that could bolster the Washington Redskins in their legal fight over the team name.

See Full Article

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sided with an Asian-American rock band called The Slants, which has spent years trying to register the name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had refused to give it legal protection on the ground that it disparages Asians.

Writing for a nine-judge majority, Judge Kimberly Moore said the First Amendment protects "even hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities." She said a federal law barring offensive trademarks is unconstitutional.

"Whatever our personal feelings about the mark at issue here, or other disparaging marks, the First Amendment forbids government regulators to deny registration because they find the speech likely to offend others," Moore said.

The government must now decide whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

In a separate case, the Redskins are appealing the July order of a federal judge in Virginia that cancelled the team's trademark registration. The judge ruled the name Redskins may disparage Native Americans.

While the Redskins dispute is before a different federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, the decision by the Federal Circuit involves the same legal issues. The appeals court hearing the Redskins case is not bound to follow Tuesday's decision.

The Redskins have argued in court papers that a ban on registering disparaging trademarks unconstitutionally burdens speech based on content and viewpoint. The team has long said that the name is intended to honour Native Americans, not insult them, and that there is no proof that a substantial segment of that population finds the word Redskins offensive.

In her opinion, Moore acknowledged the ruling could have a broader impact on other cases.

"We recognize that invalidating this provision may lead to the wider registration of marks that offend vulnerable communities," Moore said.

Slants founder Simon Tam, who formed the band in Portland, Oregon, in 2006, has long argued that the band chose the name as a statement of racial and cultural pride.

"This band was created specifically to celebrate Asian-American culture and kind of share that perspective -- our slant on life, if you will," Tam said in an interview.

"It feels kind of unreal," he said. "Not only that we won, because it's been six years in the making, but that because of our band we in some way have expanded First Amendment rights for millions of Americans."

Associated Press writer Steven Dubois in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • CN Rail beats forecasts with $1B profit in Q2

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Canadian National Railway beat analyst expectations as its profits grew 20 per cent to $1.03 billion in the second quarter on higher revenues. The Montreal-based railway (TSX:CNR) earned $1.36 per diluted share, up from $1.10 a year earlier when it posted $858 million in net income. Source
  • Spending from Trump, Trudeau on infrastructure could drive up costs: documents

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The Trump administration's fledgling promise to spend US$1 trillion on repairing American roads and bridges may have some unintended ripple effects in Canada. Newly released documents show that top civil servants in Ottawa worried earlier this year that Donald Trump's ambitious infrastructure program that he talked about on the campaign trail could end up driving up the construction costs in Canada. Source
  • U.S. senate committee pressures Trump administration on quotas in softwood deal

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL - The United States Senate finance committee has increased pressure on the Trump administration to include quotas in a softwood lumber agreement with Canada. Seven Democratic and Republican senators expressed their demands in a letter sent this week to U.S. Source
  • A timeline of B.C.'s cancelled Pacific NorthWest LNG project

    Economic CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Here is a look at how the Pacific NorthWest LNG project evolved over the last several years before the announcement of its demise Tuesday: Feb. 19, 2013: Pacific NorthWest LNG submits its project description to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Source
  • Canadian airlines aiming to become biofuel superpower, reduce carbon footprint

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The country's top airlines say resource-rich Canada has the potential to become a biofuel superpower by transforming forest residue and agricultural crops into energy that can help the industry reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Source
  • Baggage handlers threaten strike at Toronto's Pearson Airport

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - The union representing 700 workers at one of the largest baggage and ramp handling companies at Toronto's international airport could be in a strike position on Thursday. Christopher Monette, spokesman for Teamsters Local 419, says the union will encourage its members to vote down Swissport's final offer. Source
  • Toronto's Pearson Airport could be hit by baggage handlers' strike on Thursday

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ground crew for 45 airlines at Pearson International Airport could be walking a picket line Thursday, potentially delaying flights. Airlines that would be affected include Canjet, Air Transat, Air France, British Airways and KLM Royal Dutch. Source
  • Pacific NorthWest LNG project scrapped by Petronas, partners

    Economic CBC News
    The Pacific NorthWest liquid natural gas (LNG) project in Port Edward, B.C. will no longer go forward. A release from Petronas said the decision to cancel the $11.4 billion project was made after "a careful and total review of the project amid changes in market conditions. Source
  • Petronas cancels $36B Pacific Northwest LNG project

    Economic CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Petronas and its partners have cancelled the $36-billion Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas megaproject they had planned to build in British Columbia. Anuar Taib, chief executive of Petronas's oil and gas production division, said Tuesday the decision to scrap the project came after a careful review of changes in market conditions. Source
  • $1 soda sales promo helps boost McDonald's sales in U.S.

    Economic CBC News
    McDonald's says a promotion for $1 sodas and a new line of premium burgers helped boost sales in its flagship U.S. market. The company said Tuesday that domestic sales rose 3.9 per cent at established locations during the second quarter. Source