The Supreme Court has refused the Washington Redskins’ request to join The Slants’ case challenging the Lanham Act’s ban on the registration of offensive trademarks. Pro-Football, Inc. v. Blackhorse, Case No. 15-1311 (U.S. Supreme Court’s Order List at 58, Oct. 3, 2016).
Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to review The Slants’ case regarding whether the Lanham Act’s ban on offensive trademarks violates the First Amendment. In a prior decision, the Federal Circuit struck down Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, and the USPTO subsequently appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Redskins filed an unusual request to join The Slants’ case as a complementary companion even though the team’s appeal was (and still is) pending before the Fourth Circuit.
The provision at issue in The Slants’ case is the same portion of the Lanham Act that served as the basis for the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s cancellation of the Redskins’ trademark registrations in 2014, and the team has made similar arguments in the lower courts. Accordingly, the Supreme Court’s decision in The Slants’ case will have a significant impact on the Redskins’ pending case.