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Supreme Court Rules That Law Prohibiting Offensive Trademarks Offends

June 20, 2017, Covington Alert

In a case that has drawn significant media attention for its potential effect on the Washington Redskins organization, the U.S. Supreme Court held on Monday, June 19, that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) cannot deny a trademark registration on the basis that the proposed mark may “disparage” “persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” Instead, the Court held that the 70-year-old law prohibiting registration of such marks, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), “offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

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