The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Lee v. Tam. We’ve previously covered the case extensively here on the blog. A copy of the transcript from the oral argument is available here.
During argument, Justice Kagan characterized the disparagement provision and the case as a “fairly classic case of viewpoint discrimination.” Justice Kagan pointed out that under the disparagement provision, “you can say good things about some person or group, but you can’t say bad things about some person or group.” Justice Ginsburg commented that “[e]veryone knows that The Slants [are] using this term not at all to disparage, but simply to describe. It takes the sting out of the word.”
However, questions were posed to The Slants’ counsel which indicated that the Court believes that the Government should have some form of oversight in the registration process of potentially disparaging marks. For example, Justice Breyer postulated on the registration of the trademark, “Joe Jones is a jerk” and commented that without oversight, derogatory trademarks that denigrate companies, products, or individuals would be open to registration.
A ruling on this case should be out in June.