Justice Department continues attack on the Redskins and free speech. What other words are offensive but not banned?

Submitted by Kevin Hoda on March 27, 2015   Commentary Tags: , , ,
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“A government of laws and not of men” – John Adams

The 2nd president of the United States could not be more right. Some elected officials decided that they don’t like the name of a sport’s team, and at the stroke of a pen, the US trademark was gone. 83 years of brand building and a brand that is worth $2.4 billion could be lost if the court rules against them. Lets not forget, the Redskins did not commit any crime. They are going to lose their trademark for doing nothing illegal.

The Justice Department today released a update regarding the removal of the Washington Redskin’s trademark. According to them, the trademark is not free speech because it is commercial. Using that logic, video games and music are not protected either.

The Redskins are arguing that the US Constitution protects their free speech as much as a anyone else.

Legal theft by the Government. That is what the lawyers for the Football team claimed. Mr. Reilly who represents the team has argued that the Redskins have invested a immense amount of time and money into the brand, and that by the Government removing their trademark, it is theft.

The American Civil Liberties Union has teamed up with the Redskins to fight this case. Arguments from them are that since trademarks can be offensive(see below), they are protected by the first amendment.

The trademark office does not have a list available. In a email I sent to them to obtain a list, they replied:

Unfortunately, we do not have a list of banned words, our Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure conveys the guidelines in which our Examining Attorneys decide on which words are acceptable to be trademark.  You may view the language in our TMEP in Section 1203.01.

You can read about that section here.

Word “Slants”, “LMAFO”, ” COCAINE”, “KHORAN ” banned for trademark use. But other words that many agree are offensive are perfectly okay. 

A group in Portland(all Asians) wanted to use the word “Slants” for a trademark but were denied because the Trademark Office found it offensive.  Since they could not protect their name, counterfeiters sold tickets for their band and pocketed the money. They were denied a trademark, same with music band LMFAO.  But how come these trademarks got approved, did Obama not find them offensive?



Dykes on Bikes


A great example from the thefederation.org:

In Fall 2000, the rap group N.W.A. — also known as Niggaz Wit Attitudes12 — filed an application for the mark N.W.A. The application was approved for publication just four months after being assigned to an examiner.13 Nothing in the prosecution history of the mark indicates that the examiner had any qualms about the registration despite the meaning of the N.W.A. acronym.


By contrast, in 2005, Damon Wayans, a member of the famous family of African American comedians, attempted to register the mark NIGGA for clothing, books, general services, and entertainment services. See U.S. Trademark Application Serial No. 76/639,548. Relying solely on dictionary definition, the examiner issued an Office Action rejecting the mark: “NIGGA is the phonetic equivalent of the term nigger, which is ‘used as a disparaging term for a Black person.’ Use of a term that is the phonetic equivalent of a disparaging term is also disparaging.” The examiner went on to note that a substantial composite of African Americans would find the term NIGGA disparaging. To support that conclusion, the examiner referenced six newspaper articles addressing the controversy surrounding use of the word in hip hop culture. It apparently did not matter to the examiner that the applicant Damon Wayans was, in fact, a member of the disparaged group.

Yes, words are offensive, and they should be available to register for a federal trademark. Even if you disagree with that, one thing that could be agreed on is that the federal government should not have the power to remove already registered trademarks from companies that did not commit any crime or do anything illegal.

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