An Oregon band of Asian-American musicians that plays for Asian-American crowds has been turned down in its efforts to trademark its name by a U.S. Patent Office that’s worried the name offends people.
Asian-American people, to be precise.
According to NPR, the six-member group that calls itself The Slants is heading to federal court after being stymied twice in their trademark quest since 2009.
The patent office balked the first time because the name is a considered derogatory term for Asians. The Slants argued the name referred to musical chords (that really doesn’t sound true) and that even if it was derogatory, they were reclaiming it, the – the way some black rappers have “reclaimed” the n-word.
The second time the band tried, in 2011, they argued that the name had nothing to do with Asians, reclaiming or otherwise.
The patent office didn’t buy that either, NPR reports.
“They said because of our ethnicity, people automatically think of the racial slur as opposed to any other definition of the term,” band founder Simon Tam, told NPR. “In other words, if I was white, this wouldn’t be an issue at all.”
(Tam, who goes by the stage name “Simon Young,” of Taiwanese and Chinese descent.)
Now the group wants a federal judge to force the patent office to trademark the name on the grounds that the decision against them was based on their race, arguing that all-white band called The Slants would never bring an anti-Asian slur to mind.
(Some people might even think it’s an MSNBC/New York Times news reporting team.)
“Their reasoning using race as a consideration for the decision under the trademark office ….,” Tam said. “Under almost every other [form of] government, they can’t do that because it’s considered racist.”
It will be interesting to see how a judge rules.
Until then, it’s important to note that a trademark isn’t the same thing as a band.name. Thanks to the First Amendment, the government can’t stop anyone from calling their band anything they want.
And considering a band generally exists to have a paying audience, they’ll probably pick a name and play music that will appeal to a target audience. So, free people can more or less decide what to call their bands so other free people can decide whether they’ll listen to them. If they do, they’ll pay money to have them play and everybody’s happy.
That’s called a free market. You know, capitalism.
Theoretically, you could even have a band called the Meddling Officious Hypersensitive Patent Office Shysters if you wanted.
Good luck with the trademark, though.
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