The Supreme Court of the United States will hear The Slants’ trademark case on January 18, 2017

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear The Slants’ trademark case on January 18, 2017

R.I.Y.L.: Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure but with the swagger of late 70’s punk rock.




On January 18, 2017, SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) will hear The Slants’ trademark case, In re Tam.  The band will be in Washington D.C. for the oral hearing at 10am on January 18th.

Statement from Archer & Greiner, the firm representing Simon Tam and The Slants:  “We are pleased that this matter will be reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States, and look forward to the vindication of the First Amendment rights of Mr. Tam and the other members of The Slants.  We strongly believe that In re Tam raises important legal and public policy-related free speech issues that warrant the Supreme Court’s affirmation.”

The Slants – consisting of new drummer Yuya Matsuda, vocalist Ken Shima, guitarist Joe X. Jiang, and founder/bassist Simon Tam (whose stage name is Simon Young) – are an all Asian-American dance-rock band, located in Portland, Oregon, who formally applied for a trademark in 2010, but a trademark examiner rejected the application, stating that “The Slants” was a disparaging term and using sources like as evidence.  In 2011, Tam filed a second application, but was rejected again under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act.  After numerous appeals and arguments in court, the band finally prevailed on December 22, 2015, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruling that The Slants have the right to register their trademark.  In a decision with national implications on free speech, the appeals court ruled that the U.S Patent and Trademark Office and Department of Justice violated the band’s First Amendment rights.  In a 9-3 vote, the appeals court struck down the “disparagement” portion of the Lanham Act, a 1946 law that allowed the Trademark Office to deny marks that could be considered “scandalous, immoral, or disparaging.”  Writing for the opinion, Judge Kimberly Moore stated, “Courts have been slow to appreciate the expressive power of trademarks…Words — even a single word — can be powerful. Mr. Simon Tam named his band The Slants to make a statement about racial and cultural issues in this country. With his band name, Mr. Tam conveys more about our society than many volumes of undisputedly protected speech.”

Michelle K. Lee’s, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) responded by petitioning the Supreme Court on Wednesday, April 19, 2016.

SCOTUS’ decision to hear The Slants’ case, but not The Redskins’ case, is something Tam has long stated are two different issues and two different factual records.

According to Tam, “The [Redskins] tried to hijack our case, arguing that they would be better advocates for the case and wanted to consolidate the two, but the court rejected them.  So moving forward, it is just about our case.  And while the result may certainly affect or influence the Redskins’ case, there’s no guarantee that our victory would guarantee them one as well.”


Both cases concern disparaging trademarks, which are barred from registration under section 2(a) of the Lanham Act.

Two great articles explaining the differences in the cases can be found here:


Numerous news outlets, including Pitchfork, L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Washington Post, The UK’s Daily Mail, The Oregonian, USA Today, Slate, New York Times, L.A. Times, Time Magazine, NPR, and others have recently covered the Supreme Court’s decision to hear Tam v. Lee case, with The Slants fighting against the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The Slants are currently touring in support of their latest album, Something Slanted This Way Comes, and their forthcoming EP, The Band Who Must Not Be Named, including the song “From The Heart,” written about their experience with the trademark case.


“Sakura Sakura”

“Heartbeat is Heaven”

Tour dates:

1/12/17 – George Washington University (Moot Court) – Washington, D.C.

1/13/17 – AniMore (acoustic show) – Baltimore, MD

1/14/17 – AniMore (acoustic show) – Baltimore, MD

1/18/17 – Supreme Court (oral hearing at 10am) – Washington, D.C.

1/18/17 – Supreme Court (protest rally/concert at 2pm) – Washington, D.C.

1/18/17 – Electric Maid (presentation/concert) – – Washington, D.C.

1/21/17 – Rinku Con at Portland State University – Portland, OR

1/29/17 – Mochitsuki – Portland, OR

3/4/17 – 4th Ave Tavern – Olympia, WA

3/31/17 – Analog Cafe – Portland, OR

4/1/17 – Black Forrest – Eugene, OR

4/2/17 – The New Parish – Oakland, CA

4/3/17 – Fresno City College – Fresno, CA

4/5/17 – Soda Bar – San Diego, CA

4/6/17 – University of Arizona – Tucson, AZ

4/9/17 – The Prophet Bar – Dallas, TX

4/10/17 – Texas A&M University – Dallas, TX

4/12/17 – Siberia – New Orleans, LA

4/13/17 – Swayze’s – Atlanta, GA

4/14/17 – TIPLA event – Nashville, TN

4/17/17 – DC Bar Association – Washington, DC

4/18/17 – Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA

4/19/17 – Cafe Wha? – New York, NY

4/20/17 – Union Hall w/Dez Cadena (Black Flag, Misfits) – Brooklynn, NY

4/22/17 – Race + IP Conference at BU – Boston, MA

4/23/17 – O’Briens Pub – Boston, MA

4/24/17 – True Brew – Durham, NH

4/26/17 – Ironworks (PM) – Buffalo, NY

4/27/17- Duquesne University School of Law – Pittsburgh, PA

4/28/17 – Zenkaikon – Lancaster, PA

4/29/17 – Zenkaikon – Lancaster, PA

4/30/17 -Zenkaikon – Lancaster, PA

5/1/17 – CincyIP event – Cincinnati, OH

5/2/17 – CIPLA event – Cleveland, OH

5/5/17 – Walnut Room – Denver, CO

5/6/17 – Why Sound – Logan, UT

5/7/17 – WavePOP House – Boise, ID

5/10/17 – High Dive – Seattle, WA

5/13/17 – Ash Street Saloon – Portland, OR

5/26/17 – Anime Oasis at Centurylink Arena – Boise, ID

5/27/17 – Anime Oasis at Centurylink Arena – Boise, ID

5/28/17 – Anime Oasis at Centurylink Arena – Boise, ID

7/14/17 – Tokyo in Tulsa – Tulsa, OK

7/15/17 – Tokyo in Tulsa – Tulsa, OK


Simon Tam is available for interviews regarding the process pre-SCOTUS and the band’s latest full-length and upcoming EP, though he can not at this time comment on or discuss the implications for the Redskins or what it’s like going to the Supreme Court.

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The Supreme Court of the United States will hear The Slants’ trademark case on January 18, 2017