Duquesne University School of Law

The Slants participating in trademark, free expression CLE

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Duquesne University School of Law is enlisting the help of an Asian-American band—the subject of a federal trademark case before the Supreme Court of the United States—for a continuing legal education (CLE) session on trademark law and free expression.

The Slants’ registration was denied by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for its use of a term deemed derogatory. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Lee v. Tam and will determine whether that decision on what may be trademarked is constitutional.

The Slants’ founder and bassist Simon Tam will join U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon and Christine Haight Farley, law professor at American University Washington College of Law, on Thursday, April 27, at 4:30 p.m., in the Africa Room of the Duquesne University Union.

Jacob Rooksby, associate dean and intellectual property professor, will moderate the discussion, which will address trademark law, including whether The Slants’ choice to claim their name should be protected by the First Amendment. 

“We are fortunate to have the band’s founder, Simon Tam, join us to discuss these issues with us, along with a panel of two other distinguished guests, Judge Cathy Bissoon and Law Professor Christine Haight,” said Rooksby. “The outcome of the case, which is expected by the end of June, will have vast ramifications not only on trademark law, but also on the ongoing dialogue in this country concerning free speech, cultural identity, and the emotive force of language.”

The CLE course will review a section of the Lanham Act of 1946—which was used by the Patent and Trademark Office to deny the band’s application—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision reversing the trademark office’s determination, and freedom of expression issues.

“This event presents a unique opportunity for lawyers, our students and the public to learn firsthand about the cultural and legal issues surrounding government regulation of speech, and to hear music from a popular band whose dispute with the Patent and Trademark Office has made its way to the highest court in the land,” added Rooksby.

Following the CLE, The Slants will perform live in concert at 6:15 p.m. in the Africa Room. Registration is required for both the program and concert. 

Faculty Referenced In Article

Jacob H. Rooksby, J.D., M.Ed., Ph.D.Associate Dean of Administration and Associate Professor of Law