Offensive Trademarks: A Constitutional Conundrum

We’ve heard about the controversy surrounding many trademarks who’s name was offensive in nature. The Washington Redskins. The Slants.

Up until this point, the Trademark Board operating under the Federal Government has cancelled various trademarks that were deemed inappropriate or offensive. In fact, in the Redskins case, they cancelled six trademarks in 2014 at the request of the Native American Activists.

However, just this past Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that any law in place that forbids the official registration of “offensive trademarks” is unconstitutional. As per this court decision – which was in relation to The Slants, an Asian-American band – it is unconstitutional as it limits free speech. Wow, we didn’t see that one coming.

The Slants argued that they gave themselves this name to “reclaim a term that some may consider a derogatory reference to Asian people’s eyes, and rather, wear it as a badge of pride.”

Justice Samuel Alito, in ruling that the trademark provision was unconstitutional, stated, “it offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

We’re interested in seeing how this with impact the Redskins case, and even further, impact Canadian law and decision-making. What do you think?

Information derived from:


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