Government Contracts Legal Blog

Rock Band Faces Trademark Lawsuit from The Slants

Posted by Brandon Selinsky on Jun 7, 2017 1:35:10 PM
Brandon Selinsky

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The Portland, Oregon-based band, The Slants, has been facing an eight-year legal battle. The band’s trademark lawsuit struggle began when their application for a trademark was rejected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office several times.

The federal government then ruled that band’s name violated the Lanham Act, which prevents applicants from trademarking disparaging terms.

In late 2015, the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the government had violated the band’s First Amendment rights. The government then appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Oral arguments regarding the band’s ability to trademark its name were heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in January.

The case is expected to have a significant impact on free speech rights in addition to trademark law particularly in deciding how the government defines derogatory language. If a party alleges that you are in violation of the Lanham Act as in the case of The Slants, it is often essential to retain the assistance of experienced legal counsel.

The Importance of the Lanham Act

The “Lanham Act” is a section of federal trademark law that governs issues involving trademark infringement and damages. There are several important elements to the Lanham Act. One important factor is that the Lanham Act establishes procedures for federally registering trademarks. Not only is this law used to determine how the federal trademark system operates, the Act also is a deciding factor in when individuals are afforded trademark protection against infringement and wrongful use in a court of law.

Violations Under the Lanham Act

If an individual is sued for a violation of the Lanham Act, it is likely that the individual is being accused of infringing on the trademark of another business. As a result, the Lanham Act regulates the enforcement of trademark rights. There several ways in which an individual can be found in violation of the Lanham Act, including the following:

  • Copying. The Lanham Act applies when a competitor duplicates a company’s trademark, the best reason for a trademark lawsuit.
  • Disparagement. Parties have the standing to sue under the Lanham Act when a company is found to have injured an individual through use of a trademark. This type of violation is the type of action against which The Slants have been forced to defend.
  • Similar Adaptation. While not exactly copying, the Lanham Act can also apply if a competitor uses a very similar trademark as the mark used by a company.
  • Use Past Expiration. When individuals use a mark after the agreed on expiration date in a license or franchise agreement runs, the Lanham Act can be found to apply.
The Assistance of a Skilled Trademark Lawsuit Attorney

For individuals who are accused of violating the Lanham Act, it is critical to proceed with caution and almost always to quickly retain the assistance of skilled legal counsel who understands the various potential defenses that can be raised.

If you require assistance with the Lanham Act or any other type of trademark case, the legal counsel at Whitcomb, Selinsky, McAuliffe, PC can help. Contact our firm today by calling our Denver office at (303) 534-1958 or filling out a quick and convenient online form.

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Topics: Trademark Law

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