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MBA student Simon Tam's dispute with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over an application to trademark the name of his band, The Slants, is receiving attention from major networks including BBC World News, NPR and Time.
Excerpt from an article by Kat Chow on NPR.org, October 20, 2013.
The Slants have been duking it out with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) over the past four years because of their name. The PTO refused the band's two trademark applications, saying that "slants" is a disparaging term for people of Asian descent. Now the band plans to take their case to a federal circuit court.
"They said because of our ethnicity, people automatically think of the racial slur as opposed to any other definition of the term," Simon Tam, founder and bassist of The Slants, told me. "In other words, if I was white, this wouldn't be an issue at all." Tam, who goes by "Simon Young" onstage, is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent. (The entire Slants crew is Asian-American.)
As the Slants prepare to take their case to a federal circuit court, they're trying a different strategy: they're arguing that denying them the trademark violates their First Amendment rights.
Excerpt from an interview with Katy Steinmetz on Time.com,
October 23, 2013.
How did you come up with the name?
Simon Tam: The name came before the band did. I was talking to a friend of mine and saying I want to start this all-Asian band and address some underlying issues with racism. And I said, "What do people think of when they think of an Asian? What's a common stereotype?" He said they all have slanted eyes and I thought: The Slants. It actually sounds like a fun, 80s, New Wave-kind of band. And it's a play on words. We can share our personal experiences about what it's like being people of color—our own slant on life, if you will. It's also a musical reference. There are slant guitar chords that we use in our music.
Read the full interview on Time.com
Excerpt from an interview with Dan Damon of BBC World News, October 22, 2013.
Why do you think the patent office doesn't want you to be called The Slants?
Simon Tam: Well, I think they're afraid of a political situation. Because when we asked them why they wanted to deny our trademark application, they said it was because we're Asian American. ... Every other application for the term slant has been approved. There has never been an accusation of racism against Asians, until an actual Asian applied for the trademark. ... To me, the greatest part of this that smells anything like racism is the fact we're being denied a right because of our race.
Listen to the full interview on BBC.co.uk (interview starts at 38:00)
Portland Band Can't Get Trademark Because Name was Deemed Offensive on KATU.com, October 18, 2013 (video)
The Slants Lose Trademark Appeal in the Portland Business Journal, October 17, 2013
Asian-American Rock Band's Attempt to Register 'The Slants' Rejected Under §2(a) on Bloomburg BNA, October 2, 2013