US trademarks: Walking the line on free speech


US trademarks: Walking the line on free speech


The Redskins and the Slants cases, which centre on whether potentially offensive words can be trademarked, are making their way through the US courts, with the First Amendment likely to play a part. WIPR reports.

Taken at face value, the terms ‘redskins’ and ‘slants’ are likely to cause offence. 

One is a slang word to describe Native Americans, using skin colour as a defining characteristic. The other, making reference to the perceived shape of their eyes, is slang for people of Asian heritage.

But away from the obvious ability of those terms to cause hurt or offence two US courts are debating whether they should be granted trademark protection and enjoy the benefits it would bring.

USPTO, Redskins, The Slants, McGinley, TTAB, First Amendment, US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit