“The Slants:” A Band Name Too Racist to Trademark!

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An Asian-American band takes the fight over its name all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Can the U.S. Patent Office deny trademark requests it deems disparaging or offensive, or is that a violation of the First Amendment? The Supreme Court will decide in the case of Lee v. Tam, which began oral arguments today.

The case that centers around an Asian-American rock group called “The Slants,” which attempted to trademark its name in 2011 but was denied on the grounds that it was offensive.

“When I first heard about this,” the band’s founder and bassist Simon Tam told Reason’s Meredith Bragg, “I though it was a practical joke.”

Ironically, Tam says, the name was intended “to flip the slur around” and convey a “positive, self-empowering” message to fans.

Interview by Meredith Bragg. Cameras by Joshua Swain and Mark McDaniel. Music by the Slants.