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Federal Circuit Finds Disparagement Provision of Lanham Act Unconstitutional

By Jane E. Howard January 5, 2016 Posted in Blog Post

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled that the section of the Lanham Act (the statute governing trademarks) which prevents registration of “disparaging” trademarks is unconstitutional. The decision comes after the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to register THE SLANTS, a trademark sought by an Asian-American rock band of the same name. The decision is no doubt historic with potentially wide-ranging implications. Just this past July, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered cancellation of the trademark registrations for WASHINGTON REDSKINS as disparaging to Native Americans. That case is currently pending before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is reasonable to anticipate the THE SLANTS decision and the disparagement issue will be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in the upcoming year.

For the full opinion, In re Tam, click here.

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