On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Matal v. Tam, affirming the Federal Circuit and holding that the Lanham Act’s prohibition against registering disparaging trademarks is unconstitutional because it “is not ‘narrowly drawn’ to drive out trademarks that support invidious discrimination.”

Background

The Lanham Act is a federal law that governs the use and registration of trademarks in the United States. Portions of the Lanham Act tell the Trademark Office how to examine trademarks. One rule is that the Trademark Office cannot approve proposed trademarks that are confusingly similar to already-registered trademarks. Another rule is that the Trademark Office cannot approve proposed trademarks that are immoral, scandalous, or disparaging. Most of these rules have existed since at least 1946, when the law was enacted.

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