Redskins owner says he's thrilled with ruling

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft

A federal appeals court in Washington later said the law barring offensive trademarks is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court agreed.

The Washington Redskins' name is commercial speech and isn't the kind of free expression protected by the First Amendment, the Obama administration told a federal court this week in defending a ruling that has stripped the football team of trademark protections.

In his opinion for the court, Justice Samuel Alito rejected arguments that trademarks are government speech, not private speech. A lower court put the Redskins' dispute on hold pending the outcome of the band's case.

"After an excruciating legal battle that has spanned almost eight years, we're beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court", they said in a statement.

If the federal registration of a trademark makes the mark government speech, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently.

A federal appeals court had sided with the band, ruling that the law violates the First Amendment.


Writing separately, Justice Anthony Kennedy stressed that the ban on disparaging trademarks was a clear form of viewpoint discrimination forbidden under the First Amendment.

The University of North Dakota says the case of its defunct Fighting Sioux nickname is different from one before the U.S. Supreme Court that might give a boost to the moniker of the NFL's Washington Redskins. The football team's legal challenge, now on hold in a Virginia appeals court, will likely be bolstered by the ruling in Tam, since the Redskins' lawyers could argue that any effort to permanently revoke the emblem would amount to government censorship.

"This journey has always been much bigger than our band - it's been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what's best for ourselves", he wrote on Facebook. Shortly after that, the Tam case was headed to the Supreme Court, and Washington appealed for their own Supreme Court hearing, ahead of any decision by the Fourth Circuit.

The USPTO had denied the Slants' trademark because it deemed the term disparaging to the Asian American community, ignoring that the members of the band are themselves Asian Americans.

The Supreme Court has upheld that conclusion in Matal v. Tam (the case originated was Lee v. Tam, but changed with the appointment of Joseph Matal as PTO Director). Snyder issued a quick response to the decision on Monday: "I am THRILLED". The team is now appealing a federal judge's decision to uphold the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's cancellation of their trademark, because it is a racial slur and disparages Native Americans (and, per this website's house style, is not fit for print). Even if the team lost the trademark protections, it wouldn't be forced to drop the name.

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