A bad decision that ignores the likely application of the First Amendment, seizing valuable intellectual property without compensation essentially because the government disapproves of its content. [Ilya Shapiro, USA Today, earlier on Redskins trademark battle, another pending case on “disparaging” trademarks and more]
Too close to the regulation of speech content, too chancy in its impact on the rule of law [Jonathan Turley, Washington Post]:
Many of us recoil at the reference to skin color as a team identity. The problem is that the Redskins case is just the latest example of a federal agency going beyond its brief to inappropriately insert itself in social or political debates. …
The Supreme Court affirmed in 1983 that the IRS could yank tax exemption whenever it decided that an organization is behaving “contrary to established public policy” — whatever that public policy may be. … There is an obvious problem when the sanctioning of free exercise of religion or speech becomes a matter of discretionary agency action. And it goes beyond trademarks and taxes.
David Post has a post at the Volokh Conspiracy laying out the unexpectedly complicated relationship between the federal Lanham Act and state trademark common law. And he presents the First Amendment problem with “disparagement” doctrine head on:
…the constitutional question is also, for me, pretty cut-and-dried; this is precisely the sort of thing the First Amendment prohibits: an agency of the federal government doling out benefits on the basis of whether or not you have used a word or phrase that is ‘disparaging,’ or that “bring into contempt, or disrepute” any “institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” … [Whether my view of the matter is in tune with current doctrine is another question entirely]
Now that we’ll be canceling trademarks of sports teams with disparaging names, here’s one that got away. [Washington Post]
In a First Amendment win with many future implications — most immediately for the Washington Redskins football team — the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment does not allow the Patent and Trademark Office to withhold trademark protection from a rock band because it considers its name to be possibly racially disparaging (or self-disparaging). The holding was unanimous, although the Justices divided on rationale. [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, Betsy Gomez/CBLDF, Eugene Volokh and more (“Supreme Court unanimously reaffirms: There is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment”)] Earlier here (“Did Cato just file the most not-safe-for-work amicus brief in Supreme Court history?”), here, etc.
So Native American activists are trying — again — to get it invalidated as a trademark. (Jeremy T. Elman, “Can Trademark Law Help Minority Groups Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?”, Law.com, Oct. 12).
The only thing worse than a frivolous lawsuit is a frivolous repeat of a frivolous lawsuit:
A group of Native Americans filed a new legal challenge yesterday to trademarks for the name and logo of the Washington Redskins, saying the team’s name is a racial slur that should be changed.
A petition filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by six Native Americans represents a second chance for Indians to challenge the football franchise’s name. The team prevailed in an earlier fight when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the plaintiffs waited too long under trademark law to object. This time, the complaint was filed with a new set of plaintiffs.
“The term ‘redskin’ was and is a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for a Native American person,” the complaint says.
Whatever thesaurus the plaintiffs are using, I want one. I’m surprised the complaint didn’t add “just plain icky.”
- “There is nothing in the Constitution that …even hints that the president’s power expands because Congress won’t pass the legislation he advocates.” [David Bernstein interview with Josh Blackman about Bernstein’s new book “Lawless,” on Obama administration vs. constitutional limits more from Bernstein on book]
- “Will the Supreme Court End Affirmative Action? A Preview of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin on the Eve of Oral Argument” [Cato event Dec. 7 with Andrew Grossman, John Paul Schnapper-Casteras, Gail Heriot, Richard Lempert, and Wallace Hall, moderated by Ilya Shapiro]
- Theme of this year’s Federalist Society lawyers’ convention was Congress, videos of related panels [originalist views of Congress, Congressional dysfunction, deference and delegation, prospects for getting legislative branch to reclaim lawmaking power]
- Certiorari petition asks SCOTUS to review dischargeability of law school debts in bankruptcy [BNA; Tetzlaff v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp.]
- At Cato’s Constitution Day, panels looked back at an eventful SCOTUS term [Cato Policy Report]
- Common law vs. statutes: Richard Epstein on Spokeo v. Robins oral argument [Hoover] Must plaintiffs show they actually suffered harm? [Daniel Fisher]
- No, the Constitution doesn’t let feds cancel Redskins trademark as offensive [Kristian Stout, Truth on the Market; Ilya Shapiro]
- Operator of consumer-gripe sites repels subpoena seeking identity of disgruntled consumer posters [Paul Alan Levy]
- “ACLU: Cancellation of Redskins Trademark Was Unconstitutional” [WSJ Law Blog]
- Islamists’ targeting of writers and intellectuals in the West for murder is happening rather too often to count as random noise [Eugene Volokh, case of Tennessee professor] American secularist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh [Guardian]
- “Philadelphia is the latest locale to insist that photographing police performing their jobs is a crime”; Third Circuit asked to consider First Amendment’s application [Reason]
- Lawyers for British member of Parliament George Galloway demand £5,000 each from Twitter users over disparaging retweets [Popehat, Independent]
- With net neutrality done, is it OK yet to talk about how far Left Robert McChesney and the grossly misnamed organization Free Press are? [John Fund, earlier]
- Ohio judge goes wild against citizen who privately criticized him [Ken at Popehat, more, Jonathan Adler]
- Even if troublesome for other reasons, discussion of nominees’ religious beliefs does not violate the Constitution’s Religious Test Clause [my post at Secular Right]
- I’m quoted toward the end of this report: Congress rather than courts likely to get ultimate say on defining “emoluments” [NPR with Peter Overby, audio and related article, earlier]
- Convention of the States? Federalist Society panel video with Thomas Brinkman, Jennifer Brunner, David Forte, Matt Huffman, Larry Obhof, Matthew Byrne [earlier on Article V conventions]
- Supreme Court opened — and should now close — “dual sovereignty” exception to rule against double jeopardy [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 2008, has articles on the U.S. Constitution by David Mayer and on the rule of law by Norman Barry;
- Following big First Amendment win in Slants case Matal v. Tam, feds drop effort to void trademark of Washington Redskins [Ilya Shapiro, Eugene Volokh, earlier]