Portland band can't get trademark because name was deemed offensive

Portland band can't get trademark because name was deemed offensive »Play Video
Two members of The Slants in their garage studio in Vancouver.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Five musicians from a Portland band say their name is worth fighting for.

The band, which is called The Slants, is trying to convince the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the name.

The office, however, rejected their application because they said the name “Slants” is offensive to Asians.

But here’s the thing: all five members of the band are Asian.

“I thought it was kind of fun,” said band member Simon Tam of the name. “It can also refer to slant guitar amps, the kind of guitar amps we use.”

The band picked up the name almost a decade ago.

“The name actually started before the band did,” Tam explained. “In 2004 I got the idea in my head for this band and kind of had this conversation with friends. I was like ‘what’s some kind of stereotype or what do people think all Asians have in common?’ People immediately said ‘slanted eyes.’”

The band wanted to trademark their name, but the federal office denied their claim. The band appealed and was denied again.

The Slants can still use their name and can still sue anyone else who tries to use it, but they won’t have the official registration that could help bolster an infringement case.

A few years ago The Slants did have a situation where an impostor used their name and sold ticket to a concert. That’s what prompted them to apply for a trademark.

“They rejected it. They said ‘your name is disparaging to persons of Asian descent.’ I said ‘we’re Asian,’” Tam said. “That’s not their job. They’re not linguistic experts. They shouldn’t be legislating the dictionary.”