The Slants, an Asian-American rock group based in Portland, Oregon, is headed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday to end a seven-year legal battle.
The group has been trying to trademark their band name, but their applications were rejected for violating the Lanham Act. This law prevents registration of disparaging terms as trademarks. According to Rolling Stone, the trademark office cited UrbanDictionary.com in claiming that “The Slants” was offensive.
But the group is determined to get the name they had been using for over ten years. Their latest album is titled “The Band Who Must Not Be Named”. On Wednesday, the lawsuit they filed for the government’s alleged violation of their freedom of speech will be decided by the highest court.
Simon Tam, the group’s founder, said (via USA Today):
“We need to allow freedom of expression, especially with those you disagree with the most. Satire, humor, wit and irony — those are the things that will truly neuter malice.”
Tam maintained that they did not pick their name to offend, but to take on stereotypes about Asians, Oregon Live said. They are trying to transform what used to be an insult into an artistic expression of cultural pride.
As noted by their court papers:
“Simon Tam is not a bigot; he is fighting bigotry with the time-honored technique of seizing the bigots’ own language.”
On the side, the outcome of their case might decide the fate of the Washington Redskins, the NFL team who lost their trademark for derogatory connotations. Tam commented:
“The [Redskins] tried to hijack our case, arguing that they would be better advocates for the case and wanted to consolidate the two, but the court rejected them. So moving forward, it is just about our case. And while the result may certainly affect or influence the Redskins’ case, there’s no guarantee that our victory would guarantee them one as well.”