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fred rosenberger
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So i heard a story on NPR the other day.  There is a Chinese-American guy who, like many Asians, was picked on as a child for being different from the caucasians.  He grew up, formed a band with some other Asians, and named it "The Slants", after a common insult - Asians have slanted eyes. 

The band is very active in fighting racist ideas and stereotypes. 

What makes this interesting is that when they attempted to coypwrite their name, they were rejected by the USPTO.  They were told that you couldn't copywrite a racist term. The fact that they are Asian, and that they embrace the term, that they actually FIGHT racisim, and that it is being used in a non-negative way was irrelevant.  They have been fighting it ever since, and in January, their case was heard by the Supreme Court.  A ruling is expected any day.

So i'm curious what others thing. Should they be allowed to have their name protected?  There are many other possiblly offensive things patented.  "Queer" is used in a lot. I won't post some of the adult websites mentioned in the article.  I would bet that N.W.A. is protected, as is what it means.

Another point...the Washington Redskins filed an amicus brief in support of the Slants.  After all, if the Slants win, it means the Redskins could regain their copywrite/trademark protection that they were stripped of a few years ago because it was offensive to native americans.
 
Tim Cooke
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Does that mean I can't start a band called The Limeys?
 
fred rosenberger
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it's not a question of what you can or can't start. The government isn't telling them they can't call themselves that, print flyers, or print it on their album covers.

It's a question of whether or not they can get copywrite protection. They started hearing about other bands calling themselves "The Slants", and fans were getting confused.

Is Limey considered a negative/racist/pejoritive term?
 
Liutauras Vilda
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fred rosenberger wrote:What makes this interesting is that when they attempted to coypwrite their name... they were rejected by the USPTO

You mean probably copyright rather than copywrite. However, copyright comes into existence automatically once some sort of creative work gets recorded (as music for instance or song) or written down (as poem) or developed website - no need to register it explicitly. This "phrase" doesn't seem to be a creative work which could be copyright'ed. Work that expresses an idea may be protected, but not the idea behind it, so what they mean by that term is irrelevant - it is just the two words well known to English speakers and nothing else.

fred rosenberger wrote:Should they be allowed to have their name protected?  There are many other possiblly offensive things patented.

Words or phrases or letters cannot be patented at all - they are not considered as inventions which could be valuable, used in some sort of business and generate a market value. Patents are meant to protects new inventions, they cover how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. Even software cannot be patented on its own. It needs to be a part of some sort of device which can be patented and the software needs to play a key role in it. In short - it is about the way bigger things than the 10 characters "The Slants". And it is very expensite to obtain a patent and these are being given by the state.

Answering to the question you wrote lately, I think what they could maximum try to do, is to try to register it as a trademark. But presumably a national patent office already answered that already to them, that it is considered a racist term, hence cannot be registered and the idea behind that is irrelevant.
 
fred rosenberger
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Maybe I'm using the wrong word (and wrong spelling - sorry).  Here's a quote from USA Today:

Despite making music for more than a decade, the Portland, Oregon-based band has been unable to get its name registered as a federal trademark. 


The issue is since they don't own the trademark, anyone could create a band and perform under that name.  All these guys want is the same protection to the name that Coke-a-Cola has, or McDonalds.  The problem in my mind is that it's based on someone's personal opinion.  For example. these are ACTUAL REGISTERED TRADEMARKS:

  • Dirty bitch.
  • Drunk ass bitches.
  • Edible crotchless gummy panties.
  • Ego testicle.


  • Those are all OK, according to the USPTO, but not "The Slants", because that might possibly be offensive. The USPTO literally cited Urban Dictionary as a reference to why it's offensive. 

    U.S. First amendment law includes "viewpoint discrimination" - the government can't say "This opinion is OK, but that one isn't".  So for the USPTO to say "this term is offensive and therefore shouldn't be given protection" is effectively saying "We don't like the way these guys refer to Asians". 

    I'll keep following the sotry, and when the SCotUS releases the decision, I'll post it here.
     
    Stephan van Hulst
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    Until today I didn't even know that slant was a racial slur. I only knew of the meaning that's similar to "angle". People will get upset over anything.
     
    fred rosenberger
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    It has been used in a pejorative way to refer to Asians. They have "slanty eyes" or what have you.

    While I am not Asian, my daughter is, so i'm a little more aware of these issues that a lot of caucasians.
     
    Joe Ess
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    The Supreme Court rules unanimously that the Trademark Office violated the band's First Amendment rights when it prevented The Slants from getting a trademark on their name:
    The Slants Win Supreme Court Battle
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    Did it say how much that cost in legal fees?
     
    fred rosenberger
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    Yup...i was working my way through the actual opinion here.

    There were apparently four opinions submitted, but all eight members (Gorsuch wasn't seated when the arguments were made) concurred.

    THAT is a rare thing.
     
    fred rosenberger
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:Did it say how much that cost in legal fees?

    Cost whom? 

    edit: and no, i've not seen any fees attached to any article on this yet.
     
    Daniel Cox
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    Stephan van Hulst wrote:Until today I didn't even know that slant was a racial slur. I only knew of the meaning that's similar to "angle". People will get upset over anything.

    It's not just anything. It's referring to someone via a feature that is perceived to be unique to that person's race. In fact, referring to Asians as "intelligent" is offensive to some Asians.

    Joe Ess wrote:The Supreme Court rules unanimously that the Trademark Office violated the band's First Amendment rights when it prevented The Slants from getting a trademark on their name

    The First Amendment rights must be a difficult pill for many to swallow.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    What does the First Amendment mean? I am in UK where we don't have a constitution, never mind amendments.
    Is it freedom of speech? Is this one of the many instances where you are free to say what you like except if you offend somebody? And you can be offended so much better if the thing said is about somebody different?
     
    Tim Moores
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:Is this one of the many instances where you are free to say what you like except if you offend somebody?

    I'm sure many people would like that to be the definition of free speech. Let's hope in this day and age where way too many people take exception to way too many things that never happens.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    That is probably the definition of kind speech. Does this threa‍d show an example of where somebody has been too quick to take offence?
     
    Joe Ess
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:What does the First Amendment mean?


    Generally speaking, the government cannot restrict one's right to say/write/signal whatever one wants.  There are notable exceptions to this, for example, incitement to violence, misleading advertising, "obscenity", yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater (which, of course, is permitted if the theater is, in fact, on fire), etc.  Wikipedia has agood article on the subject
     
    fred rosenberger
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    The first amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    (relevant clause in italics).

    Note that is says "congress" - i.e. the Government.  The USPTO's policiy was found to be in violation of this.

    Some places can and do restrict speech.  A newspaper's editorial staff decides who's letters to the editor get printed..  Paul W. decides who can and can't speak on this web site. And so on.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    fred rosenberger wrote:. . . A newspaper's editorial staff . . . Paul W. . . .
    Because those people own the medium through which one speaks. Any such restriction constitutes their exercising their proprietorial rights.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    fred rosenberger wrote:. . . Cost whom? . . .
    The plaintiff, the Slants®. Note ® mark
     
    fred rosenberger
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    from a 2015 Vice article, he* had spent between $10k-$15k to that point. Many of his lawyers were working pro bono, and i'm pretty sure the ACLU helped at some point. Further, I think the Washington Redskins filed some amicus briefs as well.

    *It was actually the founder of the band, Simon Tam, who filed suit, not the band itself.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    Not bad; there I was thinking they had spent so many $million.
     
    Tim Moores
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    From Justice Alito's opinion:

    Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free-speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate’.


    Well said.
     
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