BREAKING NEWS – SCOTUS Holds Trademark Act Disparagement Clause Unconstitutional

Supreme Court


On Monday June 19, 2017, The Supreme Court of the United States decided Matal v. Tam, regarding the registrability of band name “The Slants” as a federal trademark. The Court reversed the refusal to register the trademark application under the disparagement clause of the Trademark Act, on grounds that the disparagement clause itself violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment with a split in rationale among the Justices. A majority of the court agreed that federal trademark registrations are private speech, not government speech.
The case is named for Simon Tam, the frontman for The Slants. Following the initial refusal of their trademark application, Tam prevailed in appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The government appealed that ruling, resulting in this holding.
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ROBERT MAKAR, is an Associate Trademark Attorney with LegalForce RAPC. He holds a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and a JD with honors from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. He is admitted to practice law in Arizona.