Asian American Band fights to Trademark Name “The Slants”
Self-described as one of the first Asian American rock bands, The Slants is a band originating from Portland, Oregon. As a six-member band of Asian descent, they cater to the Asian-American consumers. The band’s name represents the its own musical identity. Over the past four years, this band has fought to patient their trademark name. Without much success with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), they plan on taking this case to the circuit court.
PTO rejected the band’s trademark as a result of “slants” being a derogatory word aimed at people of Asian descent. Simon Tam, founder and current bassist of The Slants, counters, “They said because of our ethnicity, people automatically think of the racial slur as opposed to any other definition of the term. In other words, if I was white, this wouldn’t be an issue at all” Angered by the racial connotation arguments from the PTO, the band responded that the term “slant” could mean several other things. On the other hand, Mike Lemley, a professor of intellectual property law at Stanford Law School and director of Stanford’s Law, Science & Technology program, notes “trademark law cares a lot about what consumers think, and so if the way people in the marketplace are likely to understand the term as a reference to Asians, then that’s the way trademark law will treat it.”
Preparing to fight in the federal circuit court, the band is arguing that a denial of the trademark violates the First Amendment. While other parties argue that trademark cases cannot invoke freedom of speech, the The Slant will continue their fight nonetheless.