‘Slants' Applicant Asks Court to Force PTO Action on TM App

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

March 15 — The Patent and Trademark Office is violating a court ruling by blocking registration of “Slants” as a trademark and should be forced to publish the trademark application, according to a petition filed March 15 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The petitioner—who founded an Asian-American rock band called “the Slants”—asserts that the PTO abused its discretion by deciding to “suspend” the registration application while it seeks Supreme Court review of the issue.

The band characterized the use of the name “Slants” as a bid to retake ownership of the ethnic slur. The PTO rejected the registration under Section 2(a) after finding that the term was disparaging to a significant component of the Asian-american community.

Simon Shiao Tam asked the Federal Circuit to order the PTO to publish his application for opposition, which is the usual process that registration applications go through to give third parties a chance to claim that the trademark would infringe someone else's rights.

The court has given the PTO until March 23 to respond to the petition.

The PTO had rejected Tam's application on the grounds that it violated Section 2(a) of the Lanham Trademark Act of 1946, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), which bars registration of scandalous and disparaging words as trademarks.

However, in December, the Federal Circuit ruled that Section 2(a) was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

Earlier this month, the PTO asked for an extension on the time it has to seek Supreme Court review of the matter.

Soon after, the agency issued an examination guideline stating that applications on scandalous and disparaging words would be subject to “advisory refusals” until the constitutionality question is resolved .

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at mwilczek@bna.com

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