The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that The Slants, an Asian-American band from Portland, has won the right to trademark its name.
When the band members first tried almost eight years ago, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the application, saying the name was too offensive and disparaging to Asians. Historically, terms like "slantly-eyed" were racial slurs used against Asian-Americans.
But The Slants' founder Simon Tam disagreed with the decision of the U.S. Trademark Office.
"I wanted to pay homage to Asian-American activists who have been using the term 'slant' in this re-appropriated, self-empowering kind of way," he says. "We shouldn't shy away from racial issues."
Tam also took issue with how he claims the band's application was denied.
"The trademark office believed that it was possibly disparaging to Asian-Americans because they found an entry on UrbanDictionary.com," he says, noting that the office didn't consult with its own Asian-American employees, either.
"It became this really long battle over who gets to decide what's right," says Tam. "What [today's win] means is marginalized groups get to decide what's right for ourselves."