Rock band frontman knows more about free speech than CNN

Tam’s band had tried to register its name as a trademark only to have it rejected by the Trademark Office on the ground that it was offensive to Asians. (The federal trademark statute allowed the office to reject marks that tended to disparage or bring people into contempt.)

The Slants objected, noting that they were an all-Asian band that had played before lots of Asian audiences, and that literally no one had found it offensive. But the Trademark Office, relying largely on and a few white supremacist websites, felt otherwise and denied the mark as racist, even after The Slants presented elaborate evidence to the contrary.

The Slants appealed, getting pro bono representation from famed trademark lawyer Ron Coleman, but the case wound up turning on the First Amendment, rather than on the details of trademark law or the precise shadings of language. Even if some people somewhere might be offended by the name, the Supreme Court unanimously held, that didn’t matter. Under the First Amendment, you have a right to be offensive, and the government doesn’t get to withhold its benefits just because it’s worried that someone might not like what you have to say or how you say it.