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Supreme Court will decide if law prohibiting derogatory trademarks is unconstitutional

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The United States Supreme Court has agreed to decide if a federal law that bans the trademarking of "disparaging" terms constitutes a free speech violation, Reuters reports. The case in question involves a Portland-based band called The Slants, who were denied a trademark because their band name is a racist term for people of Asian descent. The court's decision could impact the ongoing legal battles of the Washington Redskins, who have also challenged the law.

The law in question is the 1946 Lanham Act, a portion of which prevents the trademarking of offensive terms. The Slants were denied trademark protection in 2013, and appealed the ruling. The band members, who are Asian American, say their name is an act of reclamation. This past December, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the anti-disparagement portion of the Lanham Act was unconstitutional. But the federal government then asked the Supreme Court to overturn that decision, according to Reuters, claiming it would allow trademarking of "even the most vile racial epithet."

In 2014, the US Patent and Trademark Office stripped the Redskins of their six patents after deciding their team name was offensive to Native Americans. The decision was upheld in 2015 and is now being appealed again in a Virginia court. The team has asked the Supreme Court to consider its case as well, but the court has not yet acted on that request, Reuters reports.