Redskins owner 'thrilled' with Supreme Court trademark ruling

Jon Elswick — The Associated Press file

Jon Elswick — The Associated Press file

Members of the Portland, Oregon-based Asian-American rock band The Slants (L-R) Tyler Chen, Ken Shima, Simon Tam, Joe X. Jiang pose in Portland, Oregon, U.S., August 21, 2015 in a picture released by band representatives.

"We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment", Justice Samuel Alito wrote of the provision in his plurality opinion.

"Holding that the registration of a trademark converts the mark into government speech would constitute a huge and risky extension of the government-speech doctrine, for other systems of government registration (such as copyright) could easily be characterized in the same way", Justice Samuel Alito wrote.

As you may have guessed, the ruling left the Redskins management overjoyed.

Several news organizations, including CNN and The New York Times, reported that the ruling could help the Washington Redskins football team in its battle to protect its trademark.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder said he was "thrilled" with the Supreme Court's ruling, and team attorney Lisa Blatt praised the court's decision.

The original lawsuit about the Redskins nickname was brought by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, who sued the team and claimed that the name "Redskins" disparaged Native Americans. Alito also said trademarks are not immune from First Amendment protection as part of a government program or subsidy. He expects the team to write a letter citing the Supreme Court decision and the 4th Circuit to overturn the district court decision that upheld cancellation of the team's federal trademark registrations. After using the name for decades, they had their trademark revoked in 2014 after protests that the name was offensive towards Native Americans.

Writing for the Court, Justice Samuel Alito reasoned that the entire objective behind the provision rendered it facially unconstitutional. Tam argued that his mark was not offensive, but instead empowering as he reclaimed it to make a statement against Asian stereotypes.

"A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all", Kennedy wrote.

The Supreme Court also ruled on another free speech case on Monday, striking down a North Carolina law banning convicted sex offenders from Facebook and other social media services that play a vital role in modern life.

The court ruled 8-0 to throw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks, saying that was a violation of First Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law that denies trademark protection of terms that disparage living or dead.

A co-founder of the American Indian Movement says he's disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court for ruling that that the government can not refuse to register controversial trademarks.

Justice Neil Gorsuch did not rule on the case as he was not on the court when the case was argued. But the US Supreme Court has now decided in favour of The Slants.

A statement issued in the name of Blackhorse and four other Native American petitioners called the high court's ruling narrow: "It focused exclusively on whether the disparagement provision of the law was constitutional".