Story by Young Rae Kim.
The Asian American band, The Slants, have been unsuccessful in trying to trademark their name. For four years, the six-member rock band hailing from Portland, Ore., has been fighting with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), which has denied approval, saying the name is disparaging for people of Asian descent.
Simon Tam, the founder and bassist of The Slants, responded by saying that the PTO has rejected their request on the basis of their ethnicity, while a Caucasian band would not be denied this name, NPR reported.
The group, which describes its sound as “Chinatown dance rock,” have already had several attempts shot down by the PTO.
In 2009, the group attempted to “reclaim” the racist term and applied for a trademark with the patent office. However, they were denied approval, to which the band responded by saying that the term holds multiple meanings. For instance, they argued that in their case The Slants referred to musical chords.
However, the PTO ruled that the “The intent of an applicant to disparage the referenced group is not necessary to find that the mark does, in fact, disparage that group.”
The band tried again in 2011, but with a different approach. This time they claimed the name has nothing to with anything Asian. However, it was refused for the second time.
Yet again, the band a now trying another tactic and are now preparing to take the case to federal circuit court, where they are claiming that their right to free speech has been violated. It will be another tough battle because the PTO does not forbid the band to call themselves The Slants, it just does not allow them to trademark the name.
The band is hoping the courts see it differently, and if not, the national attention from the legal battle won’t hurt them.
This story was originally published in KoreAm Journal.