A different Slant

The Slants

Does this story in the Northwest Asian Weekly about the trademark registration woes of a rock band called The Slants sound familiar?

The Slants, whose members are of Asian descent, have amassed fans nationwide, taking the stage at dive bars, Asian festivals, anime conventions, and even serving on panels to discuss racial stereotypes.

But behind the scenes, the band is fighting a battle with the United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO. The office has twice denied The Slants’ request to obtain federal trademark registration of its name, or “service mark,” on the grounds that it is “disparaging to people of Asian ethnicity.”

The band denies that its name is offensive to Asians and is preparing to file a second appeal.

Good luck with that, fellows. I’ve addressed this issue here before in the context of such charming would-be trademark registrations such as HEEB and NIGGA, rejected as scandalous and offensive by the same PTO that granted that coveted registration status to such fabulous acts as, uh, this and this, and this.  And, of course, this.

All those thisses have to do with alternative lifestyles, once considered highly scandalous but now quite socially acceptable.  Ah, but nicknames to describe those who so alternate?  Perfectly fine when adopted by the object of former derision with “pride.”

That rule, however, does not apply to ethnic groups.  As I said in the above-linked posts regarding the HEEB and NIGGA applications, racism remains the third rail of American bureaucratic practice — ironic self-descriptive pride notwithstanding.

Is there any good policy reason behind this?  Or is it, as I suggested in the NIGGA post, merely a way to avoid even having to read, much less type out, the word “nigger” in a government building near Washington, DC?

That is not a good reason.

Hat tip to Reid Wilson via this tweet.

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Author:Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

11 Responses to “A different Slant”

  1. April 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    What’s their optimal strategy? Is survey evidence likely to be persuasive? (I’m one-half Asian, and the name doesn’t offend me in the least).

    Speaking of policy, preventing registration of the mark won’t prohibit use of the mark. Assuming these marks are “offensive,” isn’t it better policy, then, to limit the number of entities that are allowed to use the mark in commerce?

  2. April 8, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    One wonders how “The Slanted Door” managed to slip through the cracks at the PTO, given that it is, of course, a fabulous Asian restaurant. No doubt the double entendre totally escaped the processing wonks in D.C.

  3. Lori
    April 8, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    Wait – “Slants” is offensive, but “Redskins” and “Heeb” are fine? Go figure…

    • April 8, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      Well, REDSKINS was registered a long time ago — far earlier than the onset of political correctness in official America. The issue of cancellation of that mark via litigation is a far more complex one than the one I am writing about here.

      HEEB also has a somewhat older registration. My HEEB post, however, was about their unsuccessful attempt to get a second one.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Br@nd Ranch - April 7, 2011

    RT @RonColeman: Scandalous and offensive trademarks: A different Slant http://wp.me/pI6cF-21M | LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

  2. Robert S. Lawrence - April 8, 2011

    A different Slant on trademark law http://bit.ly/h5mZB2

  3. James J. Harker - April 8, 2011

    RT @RonColeman: RT @theslants: Scandalous and offensive trademarks: A different Slant http://wp.me/pI6cF-21M

  4. The Slants - April 8, 2011

    RT @RonColeman: RT @theslants: Scandalous and offensive trademarks: A different Slant http://wp.me/pI6cF-21M

  5. Merlin Reynolds - April 8, 2011

    RT @RonColeman: RT @theslants: Scandalous and offensive trademarks: A different Slant http://wp.me/pI6cF-21M

  6. RaceProject.org - April 8, 2011

    RT @RonColeman: RT @theslants: Scandalous and offensive trademarks: A different Slant http://fb.me/OBwBsVV2

  7. Simon (Young) Tam - February 1, 2012

    Oh, memories. @roncoleman: A different Slant http://t.co/ISJXUH3I @theslants

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