Portlander Simon Tam, founder of the Asian-American dance rock band The Slants, says the application to trademark the band name started in 2009 as “just an ordinary process that many bands go through.” Four months later, they found out their application had been denied because the term ‘slant’ had been deemed “offensive to persons of Asian descent.” Tam says he was “shocked.” He believes that they were denied because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office made an assumption about the intent of their band’s name, which it would not have made if The Slants were white.
According to Tam, The Slants have been embraced by the Asian-American community and they’ve never received any complaints about their name. In fact, says Tam, they received a glowing front-page write up in The Asian Reporter after their very first show.
After a series of resubmissions and denials, The Slants are taking their case to the federal court of appeals.
We talk with Tam and a lawyer who specializes in trademark strategy.
- Simon Tam: Founder and bassist of The Slants
- Mike Heilbronner: Trademark attorney and adjunct professor at Lewis and Clark Law School