In one of the biggest cases from this year’s Supreme Court docket, Portland rock band The Slants emerged victorious in a huge free speech case concerning the name of the band, which is considered to be a disparaging term towards Asians.

The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of The Slants’ frontman Simon Tam, who is Asian-American himself and who filed the suit back in 2010, overturning Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which states that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can deny applications if they:

“Consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage … persons … or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”

The Slants' Simon Tam outside Supreme Court
Simon Tam, a member of the band The Slants, speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

While this is undeniably a victory for the band and for free speech advocates everywhere, it bears noting that, like many free speech issues, a ruling like this can have far reaching implications. The Lee v. Tam decision will likely validate the trademark previously held by the Washington Redskins, a team named using a term many native populations consider racist.

There are also numerous other implications to consider, many of which we covered previously in breaking down the circuit court decision back in January when the case was first added to the Supreme Court docket.

This decision will likely stand as precedent down the road, informing other major free speech cases. You can read the full text of the decision here.

For The Slants though, they can now continue on their mission to reclaim the term and likely, sell some merch!


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