Can the U.S. Patent Office deny trademark requests it deems disparaging or offensive, or is that a violation of the First Amendment? The Supreme Court will decide in the case of Lee v. Tam, which began oral arguments today.
The case, which Jacob Sullum wrote about earlier today, centers around an Asian-American rock group called "The Slants," which attempted to trademark its name in 2011 but was denied on the grounds that it was offensive.
"When I first heard about this," the band's founder and bassist Simon Tam told Reason's Meredith Bragg, "I though it was a practical joke."
Ironically, Tam says, the name was intended "to flip the slur around" and convey a "positive, self-empowering" message to fans.
Interview by Meredith Bragg. Cameras by Joshua Swain and Mark McDaniel, who also edited the video. Music by The Slants.