Flag on the Play - Should Trademark Registrations be Subject to Scrutiny Over Whether They are Disparaging?

Mandi Liston
June 13, 2016

Between the lawsuits, media discussion, and public “outcry”, it is very likely you have heard about the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins trademark dispute.  Different courts have ruled, overruled, and ruled again that the registered trademark “Redskins” is disparaging to Native Americans and therefore not registerable (please note; a trademark can still protected even without federal registration). Now the Redskins are looking to be backed by the Supreme Court.

Recently, an appellate court has ruled in favor of a Seattle based band called “The Slants,” finding that it is unconstitutional to deny trademark registration just because it is “disparaging.”   If the Supreme Court upholds this ruling, it is very good news for the Redskins.  It would allow a plethora of trademarks to be now registerable that were previously denied on the same grounds. Marks such as a depiction of Buddha for beachwear, use of the name of a Muslim group that forbids smoking as a cigarette brand name, and an image consisting of a large "X" over the hammer and sickle national symbol of the Soviet Union.  All of these marks would now be registerable. 

What do you think? Should the government be able to deny registration of disparaging marks? Or should all trademarks be registerable?

Trademarks are an essential part of any business. They let customers and clients know who you are as a company and it is crucial to protect your trademarks in order to protect your brand.  If you are looking to register a trademark, or have questions about the process, McNamara Law Firm can help!