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Supreme Court Holds under First Amendment that Offensive, Disparaging Words Can Be Granted Trademark Protection

Posted In Intellectual Property, Trademark

Lately there has been a growing tension between certain trademark applicants and a provision of the 1946 Lanham Act, which governs protection of trademarks. This clause gives the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ( the “PTO”) the power to deny registration of any “immoral. . . scandalous” trademark, or one that may “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contempt or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” 15 U. S. C. §1052(a). For some time now, this issue has been in the spotlight with a lengthy legal dispute over whether the PTO must cancel the “Washington Redskins” trademarks registered to the National Football League team of that name, because the term “redskins” is disparaging of Native Americans. In the latest ruling, the PTO canceled the Redskins trademark registrations, and that ruling is currently on appeal.  A recent decision by the Supreme Court, however, may change everything. More >

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