I: Impact of Tam

Last month, in Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court unanimously held (8-0) that the disparagement clause (Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act), is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. This decision has already caused some companies and individuals to begin filing trademark registration for racially charged words and symbols for products.

Host Anthony Zangrillo discusses this topic with special guest Jim Sawtelle. Jim is a partner at the national law firm Sherman & Howard, and he leads the firm’s intellectual property practice group.

Previously, Sawtelle has said that he’s not surprised by the influx of requests: 

“By unanimously striking down the disparagement clause of the federal trademark act, the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door to registration over many different derogatory terms and phrases. We should expect to see more efforts at securing trademark registration over words intended push the limit of what has been historically considered out-of-bounds from a cultural standpoint. Though not surprised to see applicants trying to push the limits with registration of words or phrases likely to draw attention due to their controversial nature, it is a little surprising to see an entire cottage industry dedicated to the registration of potentially offensive terms appear so quickly, in light of the fact that the Court’s decision was just handed down last month. Anyone opposed to a federal trademark application will still have the ability to challenge it pursuant to a number of grounds, however it is unlikely that an opposition will be successful on the basis of disparagement alone, in light of the decision in the Slants case.”

Anthony explores these issues with Jim for the IP Crowd. Trust the Podcast! 

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About The Author

Anthony Zangrillo is the President and Owner of the Motion Picture Club. While an undergraduate student at NYU, he founded the Motion Picture Club. At the Fordham University School of Law, he was the Online Editor of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal and started the IPLJ Podcast, which continues recording to this day. You can find him on Instagram: @anthony_mpc.

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11 Comments

  1. Tyrell Tomlinson

    Thankyou for taking your time to do this podcast. I also podcast myself (still new to it) on the weekends.

    Reply
  2. Lenny Aronson

    A great and timely decision by the Supreme Court to fight political correctness.

    Reply
  3. Khaliiq

    Very interesting. It is difficult to maintain and determine the balance between our freedoms and the limits to those freedoms.

    Reply
  4. Shianna Gonzalez

    interesting read, there’s always something grey in between right or wrong in this systems sense of law

    Reply
  5. Sam Hafferty

    Interesting take on the extent to which the current socio-political climate may have affected the public reaction to this case.

    Reply
  6. Rimi Cooper

    Think that it just opened up a can of worms that they don’t know how big the can is.

    Reply
  7. David Alsbrooks jr

    Looks like a can of worms has been opened, and like the lawyer said – the next bunch of months are gonna be interesting (from a legal perspective).

    Reply

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