Published 01/02/2018 by
The Lanham Act: Disparagement Provision Violates the First Amendment
On June 19, 2017, the Supreme Court made a decision in Matal v. Tam (previously known as Lee v. Tam). The case addressed the issue of whether or not the Lanham Act’s disparagement clause impeded on trademark applicants’ First Amendment rights.
The case’s history can be traced back to front-man Simon Tam’s application to register his band name The Slants, filed in 2011. As his application progressed through the registration process, it was rejected by the examining attorney, who cited the Lanham Act’s prohibition of trademarks that “may ‘disparage...or bring...into contemp[t] or disrepute’ any ‘persons, living or dead’” U.S.C. §1052(a). However, Tam claimed that his intentions were not to disparage, but to reclaim the term and express pride in his Asian heritage. In response to the denial of his application, Tam appealed before the Federal Circuit, whose final decision recognized the disparagement provision of the Lanham Act as unconstitutional. For this reason, the Federal Circuit expressed that Tam should be granted his trademark registration for The Slants. However, the Patents and Trademark Office still did not agree that Tam should be granted his mark, and the case was then appealed and presented before the Supreme Court.
On January 18, 2017, oral arguments were heard before the Supreme Court, and a decision was made on June 19, 2017. The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Federal Circuit’s decision that the Lanham Act’s disparagement provision is unconstitutional, violating the applicant’s right to free speech. This decision was made upon the arguments of viewpoint-based discrimination and commercial vs. expressive purpose of a mark. Although perceived as offensive to some, prohibiting such marks silences a viewpoint, and with trademarks being considered private speech rather than government speech, the silencing of these viewpoints is considered a violation of the First Amendment. Furthermore, because the Government and its programs are obliged to adhere to viewpoint neutrality, commercial speech (i.e. trademarks) is no exception, regardless of the speech’s expressive aspect. The disparagement provision automatically muffles a viewpoint albeit disfavored, and therefore, all trademarks—even those perceived to be offensive—are at the very least entitled to a chance of becoming registered.
This Supreme Court decision redefined the Lanham Act and its boundaries. The disparagement provision can no longer be used as a basis for rejection of a U.S. trademark application due to its violation of the First Amendment. It excludes the government from deciding what is considered moral and immoral, leveling the field for trademark applications and granting applicants the chance to protect their names.
Full decision can be read here: Matal, Interim Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Tam
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)9/17/2021 4:57:53 PM
An Apple off the Apple Tree
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)9/10/2021 4:59:08 PM
VROOM VROOM VROOM
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)9/3/2021 4:56:24 PM
On Copyrights of Annotations.
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)8/27/2021 4:55:40 PM
Rejecting Trademark Contracts
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)8/20/2021 4:42:46 PM
It's a Bratz Girl, in a Barbie World (Pt. 2)
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)8/13/2021 4:57:49 PM
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)8/6/2021 4:39:04 PM
It's a Bratz Girl, in a Barbie World
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)7/31/2021 3:21:56 AM
Ice Cream, You Scream
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)7/23/2021 4:12:50 PM
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)7/16/2021 5:00:45 PM
Buy me a ring, darling
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)7/7/2021 2:52:33 PM
Offensiveness vs Free Speech in Trademark Law
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)6/25/2021 4:45:12 PM
Woof Woof - Trademark Law
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)6/18/2021 5:29:44 PM
Forum Selection 101
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)6/11/2021 4:23:58 PM
Willful v Innocent
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)5/17/2021 2:38:30 PM
Thryv, Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies, LP
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)4/23/2021 5:34:02 PM
Oracle Patent Problems
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)4/5/2021 5:38:23 PM
Blockchain and the Expanding US Patent Landscape
CIONCA IP TEAM (MC)3/24/2021 2:19:11 PM
Invention and Art Analogy
CIONCA IP TEAM (BR)1/19/2021 4:57:54 PM
QuikTrip West, Inc. v. Weigel Stores, Inc.
CIONCA IP TEAM (AP)12/7/2020 4:06:28 PM
St Jude Medical LLC v Snyders Heart Valve LLC
CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)12/1/2020 5:07:58 PM
Allen v. Cooper, Governor of North Carolina
CIONCA IP TEAM (JM)10/8/2020 2:57:24 PM
Royal Crown Company Inc., Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Inc., v The Coca-Cola Company
CIONCA IP TEAM (SG)10/6/2020 2:42:35 PM
Apple, Inc., v. Voip-Pal.com, Inc.: Sanction Orders and Obviousness
CIONCA IP Team (SE)9/16/2020 4:21:45 PM
CIONCA IP Launches New Online Patent Website
CIONCA IP Team9/15/2020 5:11:49 PM
Comparing Apples to Apples: TTAB on In re Horizon Group USA, Inc.
CIONCA IP Team9/3/2020 4:30:41 PM
D2 Holdings v. House of Cards
CIONCA IP Team8/31/2020 12:09:17 PM
Blackbird Tech LLC, DBA Blackbird Technologies, v. Fitbit, Inc., Wahoo Fitness LLC: Obviousness
CIONCA IP Team8/11/2020 11:56:24 AM
Adidas AG v. Nike INC.
CIONCA IP Team7/20/2020 7:40:21 PM
Fitbit Inc. v. Valencell Inc.: Joint Parties in IPR Proceeding
CIONCA IP Team7/14/2020 7:51:31 PM
CIONCA IP Launches New Online Trademark Website
CIONCA IP 5/19/2020 7:36:30 PM
Uber Technologies, Inc. v. X One, Inc.: “Obvious to Try” Rationale
Marin Cionca4/15/2020 4:41:43 PM
The Day After COVID-19 Pandemic – Hope or Fear?
CIONCA IP4/13/2020 9:33:36 PM
Two of a Kind: TTAB on Shannon DeVivo v. Celeste Ortiz
CIONCA IP3/16/2020 8:43:10 PM
GS CleanTech Corporation v. Adkins Energy, LLC: Inequitable Conduct
CIONCA IP3/10/2020 7:45:30 PM
Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Google LLC, Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft Mobile Inc.
Marin Cionca2/9/2020 7:46:10 PM
Analogous Prior Art or Not? A critical patent obviousness question
CIONCA IP 1/15/2020 4:47:19 PM
FOX Factory, Inc. v. SRAM, LLC: Presumption of Nexus
CIONCA IP 1/9/2020 4:43:58 PM
The Bigger Picture: TTAB’s Decision in In re James Haden, M.D., P.A.
CIONCA IP 12/31/2019 4:29:41 PM
The Chamberlain Group, INC. v. One World Technologies, INC.
Marin Cionca12/9/2019 8:07:20 PM
A “glove” approach to patent claim construction
11/15/2019 8:15:11 PM
Liqwd, Inc. v. L’Oreal USA, Inc.: Objective Indicia and Copying
CIONCA IP10/16/2019 1:28:13 PM
To Use or Not to Use: The Statutory Period of Trademark Nonuse Prior to Presumed Abandonment
CIONCA IP10/7/2019 5:44:50 PM
A Decision in Henny Penny Corporation v. Frymaster LLC
Marin Cionca9/27/2019 9:32:48 PM
Can an Online Patent Attorney File My Patent?
CIONCA Team Member9/4/2019 7:20:46 PM
Guangdong Alison Hi-Tech Co. v. International Trade Commission: Objective Boundaries
CIONCA Team Member8/19/2019 7:46:17 PM
In re Yarnell Ice Cream, LLC: Trademark Descriptiveness and Acquired Distinction
CIONCA Team Member8/5/2019 2:29:33 PM
Is Speculation Enough Evidence for an Appeal?: General Electric Company v. United Technologies Corporation
CIONCA Team Member7/5/2019 2:22:42 PM
In re: Global IP Holdings LLC: Broadening Claims Through Reissue Applications
CIONCA Team Member6/27/2019 7:41:52 PM
Obviousness in a Single Prior Art Instance: Game and Technology Co., LTD., v. Activision Blizzard INC., Riot Games, INC.
Marin Cionca6/11/2019 8:43:17 PM
Can I Successfully License My Invention?
CIONCA Team Member5/20/2019 8:25:57 PM
PTAB Designates Cases as Precedential
CIONCA Team Member5/7/2019 7:13:41 PM
The Federal Circuit Defines a Technological Invention
Marin Cionca4/17/2019 3:48:33 PM
What Qualifies as Proper Use in Commerce Claim in a USPTO Trademark Application?
CIONCA Team Member4/3/2019 7:25:37 PM
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Designates Three Decisions Precedential
CIONCA Team Member3/21/2019 3:49:43 PM
Defining Inherency: A Decision in Personal Web Technologies, LLC v. Apple, Inc.
Marin Cionca3/1/2019 9:36:50 PM
USPTO Director Andrei Iancu Visits Orange County!
CIONCA Team Member2/19/2019 7:12:46 PM
Revised Guidance by USPTO on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility and Examining Computer-Implemented Functional Claims
CIONCA Team Member2/5/2019 7:22:27 PM
TiVo Puts Tivoli on Pause: TTAB’s Decision in TiVo Brands LLC v. Tivoli, LLC
Marin Cionca1/23/2019 9:45:30 PM
Patent Law Alert: All Sales of the Invention, Including Secret Sales May Invalidate a Patent
CIONCA Team Member1/4/2019 4:12:21 PM
In re: Tropp: New Matter in a Continuation Can Be Relevant to Written Description Requirement
CIONCA Team Member12/18/2018 6:12:48 PM
Schlafly v. The Saint Louis Brewery: The Registration of Merely a Surname
Marin Cionca12/8/2018 8:35:06 PM
IP Assets - Procurement, Enforcement, Monetization
CIONCA Team Member11/19/2018 1:07:51 PM
The Appeals Process
CIONCA Team Member10/16/2018 6:50:31 PM
A Double-Edged Sword: Benefit of Priority or Longer Patent Term
Marin Cionca10/1/2018 7:42:12 PM
Can I Register a Color as a Trademark or Service Mark?
CIONCA Team Member9/17/2018 4:33:20 PM
Trademarks and Likelihood of Confusion: Federal Circuit’s Decision in In re: Detroit Athletic Co.
Staff8/31/2018 7:26:58 PM
Patent Claim Interpretation By Federal Circuit's on Facebook's Contiguous Image Layout
Staff8/16/2018 4:24:01 PM
Correcting or Changing a Patent After Issue Through the Central Reexamination Unit
Marin Cionca7/31/2018 6:50:05 PM
My patent expired? Can I still sue for patent infringement?
7/3/2018 7:44:33 PM
Impax Laboratories Inc. v Lannett Holdings Inc. on Claim Invalidation
CIONCA IP5/17/2018 9:54:58 PM
Marin Cionca Presents at OCIPLA May 2018 Luncheon
5/4/2018 7:37:51 PM
The Hague System for Protection of International Designs
CIONCA Staff4/20/2018 5:25:25 PM
USPTO Changes Examination Procedure Pertaining to Subject Matter Eligibility in View of Berkheimer v. HP, Inc.
CIONCA Staff4/13/2018 9:10:04 PM
It Take Two to Tango: Knowles v. Iancu, a Standing Dispute in a PTAB Decision
3/20/2018 12:50:05 PM
Andrei Iancu - New Director of the USPTO
3/8/2018 1:25:46 PM
Proceed with Caution: Consider Carefully when Narrowing Claims for Allowance
CIONCA Team2/16/2018 4:07:48 PM
Fashion and Intellectual Property
CIONCA Team1/17/2018 8:12:06 PM
A Fork in the Road: Production or Protection?
1/2/2018 7:47:09 PM
12/26/2017 6:04:25 PM
CIONCA Sets Foot in San Francisco
12/1/2017 8:01:27 PM
An Introduction to Patent Cooperation Treaty Applications
11/17/2017 1:24:20 PM
An Introduction to Patent Searches
11/10/2017 6:47:44 PM
An Introduction to Design Patent Applications
Staff11/3/2017 4:20:04 PM
An Introduction to Provisional Patent Applications
Staff9/28/2017 7:27:22 PM
staff9/27/2017 5:12:07 PM
CIONCA - Patent and Trademark Law Attorney
staff9/27/2017 5:00:12 PM
Claim Indefiniteness During Patent Pre-Issuance: Define Your Invention, Not Just Your Audience
staff9/15/2017 9:33:30 PM
CIONCA Staff8/20/2017 3:16:11 PM
CIONCA on Patents: Think Twice Before Suing for Patent Infringement and Fight Back when Unreasonably Sued
CIONCA - Staff8/9/2017 5:39:58 PM
Patent Case Study: The Novelty Of An “Invention” Is NOT Enough To Make It Patentable
CIONCA - Staff6/28/2017 8:26:07 PM
Patent Law: Conditions Precedent May Expose Method Claim to Broad Interpretation During Prosecution
CIONCA - Staff6/15/2017 5:32:14 PM
Patent Law: Challenging the Patent Claim Definiteness Requirement
Marin Cionca4/25/2017 9:48:49 PM
Monetization of Patents: How to Make Money with Patents
Marin Cionca2/21/2017 12:30:52 AM
Software Patent Law Update: Federal Circuit Finds Graphical User Interface Patentable
Marin Cionca9/15/2016 9:47:39 PM
Patent Law Alert: Federal Circuit Opens Door for More Software Patents
Marin Cionca9/6/2016 9:26:12 PM
Patent Case Law: New Example of Software as Patentable Subject Matter
Iris Kim, PhD6/1/2016 7:04:50 PM
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board Designates Five More Decisions as Precedential
Marin Cionca5/17/2016 8:57:23 PM
Patent Claims Rejection Based on Inherency
Iris Kim, PhD3/25/2016 8:34:14 PM
Challenging a Claim’s Validity with Different Standards of Claim Construction
I. Kim PhD2/26/2016 8:47:51 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court Will Review Claim Construction Standards and Institution Decision Reviewability.
Marin Cionca2/16/2016 6:34:53 PM
In IPRs, patentees have to show that substitute patent claims are patentable
M. Cionca and I. Kim2/4/2016 5:55:16 PM
Software Inventions Are Still Patentable!
Marin1/28/2016 9:15:16 PM
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board Designates Two Decisions as Precedential
Marin1/28/2016 9:10:56 PM
How Unpredictability Can Affect Obviousness Challenges
Marin11/19/2015 2:13:05 PM
An Innovator’s Dilemma: Design or Utility Patent?
Marin11/18/2015 7:31:35 PM
When Is a Thesis Prior Art?
Marin11/18/2015 6:15:40 PM
Covered Business Method Claims Are Not Required to Particularly Target Financial Industry
Marin11/18/2015 6:11:11 PM
PTAB Decisions Give Examples of Patent Eligible Subject Matter
Marin Cionca, Esq.
Registered Patent Attorney
USPTO Reg. No. 63899
About CIONCA® IP Law firm: We are an Orange County, CA based boutique intellectual property firm with a focus on patent and trademark application, prosecution, opinion, licensing and IP enforcement services, offering its IP services primarily at flat fee rates. We serve local OC clients, as well as clients throughout US and international clients.
We’d love to hear from you…we just need a little info
about your plans to take over the world!
P.S…Feel free to call us! (800)985-9198
Thank you for your message. We will respond within 24-72 hours. Thank you.