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Asian-American band 'The Slants' asks federal court for right to trademark slur

The Slants Yearly Show at Sakeone 2010-9
Tony Roberts via Flickr
The Slants Yearly Show at Sakeone 2010-9

Simon Tam, bassist for poppy Portland rock band "The Slants," will ask a federal court on Friday for permission to trademark the band's controversial name.

Simon Tam, bassist for poppy Portland rock band "The Slants," wants a federal court to permit a trademark for the band's controversial name. Since 2011, the US Patent and Trademark office has refused to permit trademark for the Asian-American band's name because "slant" is considered disparaging. A USPTO attorney characterized the word as "a negative term regarding the shape of the eyes of certain persons of Asian descent" and "an inherently offensive term that has a long history of being used to deride and mock."

Tam has said his band was trying to reclaim the word: “We deliberately chose this outdated, generational term to inject pride into Asian American culture.”

The case was heard last week in a federal court; the decision is pending.

How is the legal case similar to or different from the trademark fight over the Washington Redskins? What about the trademark victory of the lesbian motorcycle group Dykes on Bikes? What do you think of Tam’s intent?

Guests:

Jesse Saivar, Attorney and Partner with Greenberg Glusker based in Los Angeles who specializes in intellectual property law

Geoffrey Nunberg, Linguistics expert at UC Berkeley and former chairman of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary

Simon Tamfounder and member of The Slants

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