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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Slanted Ruling

In case you missed it, political correctness took a major hit last week.

And all it took was a Portland-based Asian band using a disparaging term for Asians on itself - which you'd think would be politically correct. You're supposed to get a pass for making fun of your own group.

But this seemingly correct act may have paved the way for an onslaught of trademarks that we may not like to see.

Check out a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit called In Re Tam, in which an "Asian-American dance-rock band" may have rescued the Washington Redskins trademark.

I'm guessing the band didn't mean to do that, unless they're really sneaky racist football fans.

Whatever the motivation, it seems that, according to the ruling, the band called itself "The Slants to 'reclaim' and 'take ownership' of Asian stereotypes."

NWA, after all, has a trademark.

But when the bandleader filed an application for trademark registration, a Patent and Trademark Office examiner denied it for being offensive to Asians (such as the people in the band).

All legal hell then broke loose.

If you don't believe me, check out the impressive list of counsel weighing in on this ruling - everyone from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Cato Institute, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and both sides in the fight over the Washington Redskins trademark.

The other bit of impressive and entertaining reading is on pages 8 and 9 of the ruling. It's a list of trademarks rejected as disparaging by the Patent and Trademark Office.

These include: The Christian Prostitute, Amishhomo, Have You Heard That Satan Is a Republican?, Democrats Shouldn't Breed, Republicans Shouldn't Breed, Fagdog, and "a mark depicting a defecating dog."

There's no end to creativity out there.

And, after four-plus years of litigation, the Federal Circuit, in a divided en banc ruling, affirmed our First Amendment right to be offensive.

(Insert Donald Trump joke here.)

Prepare for an onslaught of disgusting trademarks.

I can't wait for this to be appealed and for Justice Antonin Scalia to weigh in on it.

By the way, why aren't there "Pure Applesauce" and "Jiggery-Pokery" T-shirts?

Oh wait, there are. There are. There are. There are.

So if Justice Scalia wants to come down on the side of the First Amendment and the Washington Redskins, he's going to have to live with the "Impeach Scalia" and "SCROTUS" T-shirts too - which could be trademarked.

Free speech is a wonderful thing - and it usually isn't free.

Justice Scalia ought to hustle down to the Patent and Trademark Office.

Sentence of the week. This is from the opening sentence of the "summary" section of a Los Angeles Superior Court complaint. It's probably true and probably irrelevant.

"The Colonel would not be pleased with Kentucky-based Yum Brands, Inc., owners of the well-loved franchise brand Kentucky Fried Chicken, which deceitfully and wrongfully places corporate priorities ahead of its franchisees ..."

I'm thinking the plaintiff lawyers here need to show up in all-white suits when this gets to trial.

And franchisees should be selling "Displeased Colonel" T-shirts.

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