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Supreme Court hears dispute over offensive trademark

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U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared concerned about allowing federal trademarks for racial slurs in a case involving an Asian-American rock band called The Slants that could impact the high-profile dispute over the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

The eight justices heard arguments in the Obama administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling last year that sided with the Portland-based band in its free-speech challenge to part of the 1946 law governing federal trademarks. The case is one of the most closely watched of the court’s current term.

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 The band’s legal dispute began when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused to grant trademark protection for The Slants’ name in 2013, saying it was offensive to people of Asian descent. Some consider it a racist slur referring to eyes of Asian people.

The Redskins separately challenged the law on free speech grounds, but the Supreme Court declined to take up that case. The Redskins case is on hold in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, pending the outcome of The Slants’ case. 

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)


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