Federal judge rules that censoring trademarks is unconstitutional

The ruling could benefit the Washington Redskins, who have an appeal to uphold their trademark
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Federal Circuit Court ruled Tuesday that the federal government can not ban or censor offensive speech in trademarks under protection of the First Amendment, according to Law360.com

The ruling vacated the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to refuse registration to a band called The Slants on the grounds the name would be offensive to Asian-Americans. The ruling could benefit the Washington Redskins, who have filed an appeal to uphold their trademark.

“Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities,” the appeals court said in a statement. “But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech. The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproved of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks.”

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The band has had its name rejected for a trademark on two instances since 2010.

The Redskins’ trademark is under review at the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

- Christopher Chavez