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Entertainment and Sports Law Intellectual Property Litigation Trademarks United States Supreme Court

What Will Impact Be of Supreme Court's Tam Decision?

In Matal v. Tam, the trademark case involving the name of the Asian-American rock band The Slants, the SCOTUS held that the portion of §2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), that prohibits the federal registration of potentially disparaging trademarks and service marks, violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

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In Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017), the trademark case involving the name of the Asian-American rock band The Slants, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the portion of §2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), that prohibits the federal registration of potentially disparaging trademarks and service marks, violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The eight justices participating in the case agreed that the prohibition constituted a viewpoint-based government restriction, but they divided evenly on the constitutional significance of that consideration. Whatever the resolution of that division ultimately may be, though, the outcome of the litigation is unlikely to affect the validity of most — but not necessarily all — of the Lanham Act’s other prohibitions on registration. This is an important consideration in the entertainment industry in which products with outrageous names are common.

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