Los Angeles – The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently rejected a Trademark Application for the band name “The Slants.” The Application was filed in 2011 in Class 041 for “Entertainment in the nature of live performances by a musical band” by a Portland area band. After receiving two initial refusals, the named Applicant, Simon Tam, filed a Request for Reconsideration after Final Office Action. That Request for Reconsideration was denied earlier this year, with the Examining Attorney providing a brief to back up his reasons for finding the Trademark unregistrable.
In denying the request, the Examiner cited Section 2a of the Lanham Act, which states that registration can be refused for any Trademark that “consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.” He went on to reference various impressions of the term “The Slants” and pointed out its use as “Offensive slang used as a disparaging term for a person of East Asian birth or descent.” Concluding that the Trademark is disparaging to people of Asian heritage, he once again confirmed his refusal to register the mark. As a last effort, Mr. Tam has filed an Appeal with the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB) and is currently awaiting the results of that pending matter.
For his part, Mr. Tam has said that he finds the term “The Slants” to be “neutral.” As an Asian American himself with all of his bandmates also being of Asian descent, he stated that he would only be offended by the term “The Slants” if someone shouted it at him in a demeaning way. He asserts that there are many words that could be used this way and points out that in his support behind the refusal, the Examining Attorney referenced no examples of actual Asian Americans who were offended by the term. Rather, he notes that the term has not been used as a racial slur since the 1940′s and cites the oddity that the USPTO would label the term as offensive when members of the Asian American community themselves are seeking to trademark its use.