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Supreme Court will hear trademark case directly relevant to Stop Islamization of America trademark


Longtime Atlas readers are quite familiar with our First Amendment trademark case. We have been fighting to trademark SIOA (Stop Islamization of America) but were repeatedly refused because it considered “disparaging” to Muslims. It was, in effect, an application of sharia law (‘do not criticize Islam.’)

Now the Supreme Court is going to hear a case which, as legal expert Eugene Volokh explains, is directly relevant to the controversy.

sioa poster

“Supreme Court will hear ‘Slants’ trademark case, which is directly relevant to the Redskins controversy,” by Eugene Volokh, Washington Post, September 29, 2016:

Federal trademark law lets people register their trademarks, which gives them various legal remedies for stopping others’ infringement of those trademarks. But § 2(a) of the law excludes the registration of “scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks.” Among other things, that provision covers marks that a “substantial composite of the referenced group” perceives as disparaging a religion, nation, ethnic group, belief system and the like.

Based on that provision, the Patent and Trademark Office barred the registration of THE SLANTS (I use all-caps for this in this post, to follow trademark opinion style), a trademark used by Simon Tam’s Asian American musical group of that name. The PTO has famously canceled the registration of REDSKINS. And it has done the same for many other marks: STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA, THE CHRISTIAN PROSTITUTE, AMISHHOMO, MORMON WHISKEY, KHORAN for wine, HAVE YOU HEARD THAT SATAN IS A REPUBLICAN?, RIDE HARD RETARD, ABORT THE REPUBLICANS, HEEB, SEX ROD (apparently some sort of reference to the Red Sox), MARRIAGE IS FOR FAGS, DEMOCRATS SHOULDN’T BREED, REPUBLICANS SHOULDN’T BREED, 2 DYKE MINIMUM, WET BAC/WET B.A.C., URBAN INJUN, SQUAW VALLEY (in part), N.I.G.G.A. NATURALLY INTELLIGENT GOD GIFTED AFRICANS, “a mark depicting a defecating dog … (found to disparage Greyhound’s trademarked running dog logo),” “an image consisting of the national symbol of the Soviet Union with an ‘X’ over it,” and more.

This morning, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Slants case and decide whether this sort of limitation on what may be trademarked is constitutional. Late last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had held (In re Tam), by a 9-to-3 vote, that the exclusion of “disparaging” marks violated the First Amendment. The government asked for review, and Simon Tam agreed that review was proper. (My colleague Stuart Banner wrote the petition, and I helped with it; our view was that review should be granted because, “This issue is undeniably important. The Court is very likely to address it in the near future, in another
case if not in this one. Meanwhile, respondent Simon Tam waits in limbo. His trademark rights will not be secure until the Court resolves this issue once and for all.”)

Being a lawyer in the case, I can’t offer an impartial opinion. But I thought I’d pass along a quick summary of the Federal Circuit opinions, which I posted last year. (The summary necessarily oversimplifies: The opinions put together take up more than 100 pages.)

A. The majority in the Federal Circuit (nine judges, written by Judge Moore):

1. The law denies rights to certain speakers: The exclusion of disparaging marks denies important legal rights to trademark owners. It doesn’t ban speech (since people remain free to use even unregistered marks). But it does deprive marks of protections that are important to trademark owners, and therefore tends to discourage people from using disparaging marks.
CONTENT FROM THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNELHinckley’s out. Here’s what really led to the assassination attempt
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“[I]f the government could deny a benefit to a person because of his constitutionally protected speech or associations, his exercise of those freedoms would in effect be penalized and inhibited. This would allow the government to produce a result which it could not command directly.” “Denial of [registered trademark] benefits creates a serious disincentive to adopt a mark which the government may deem offensive or disparaging….”

2. This denial is viewpoint-based: The government instituted the exclusion because of “disapproval of the message conveyed” by the marks. “Underscoring its hostility to these messages, the government repeatedly asserts in its briefing before this court that it ought to be able to prevent the registration of ‘the most vile racial epithets and images,’ and ‘to dissociate itself from speech it finds odious.’”

And “the disparagement provision at issue is viewpoint discriminatory on its face. The PTO rejects marks under § 2(a) when it finds the marks refer to a group in a negative way, but it permits the registration of marks that refer to a group in a positive, non-disparaging manner” (e.g., “CELEBRASIANS, ASIAN EFFICIENCY, … NAACP, THINK ISLAM, NEW MUSLIM COOL, MORMON SAVINGS, JEWISHSTAR, and PROUD 2 B CATHOLIC”). “Speech that is offensive or hostile to a particular group conveys a distinct viewpoint from speech that carries a positive message about the group. STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA and THINK ISLAM express two different viewpoints. Under § 2(a), one of these viewpoints garners the benefits of registration, and one does not.”

3. The law isn’t saved by the “commercial speech” doctrine: Though trademarks are often used as “commercial speech,” which is to say commercial advertising, and such speech is generally somewhat less protected than noncommercial speech, that doesn’t apply here: It is not the mark’s commercial nature as source identifier, but rather its “expressive character” — disparagement of some person, group, or institution — that makes it non-registrable.

For instance, “STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA is expressive. In refusing to register the mark, the Board explained that the mark’s admonition to ‘STOP’ Islamisation in America ‘sets a negative tone and signals that Islamization is undesirable and is something that must be brought to an end in America.’” And by finding HEEB and SQUAW VALLEY disparaging, the PTO necessarily did so based on its finding that the marks convey an expressive message over and above their function as source identifiers — namely, an expressive message disparaging Jewish and Native American people.”…

  • Mahou Shoujo

    The more the supreme court rules favour on islam, the less credibility it will have, leading to a lot of trouble enforcing its rulings. It is about time the concept of free speech be applied to everyone, not just muslims. No one has the right not to be offended, everyone has the right to disregard what they disagree with, within limits of the law.

    • overboosted ✓ᴰᴱᴾᴸᴼᴿᴬᴮᴸᴱ

      Islam – the religion of butthurt.


      • Mahou Shoujo

        That is a very accurate description.

    • Suresh

      under the Lunatic perverted Obama and Dems Islam will continue to be pushed and most Republicans with few exceptions are no different.

      Hillary is as sick as Angela ! Birds of the same feathers flock together .

      …….and Hillary , obama , Dems and many Republicans are on payroll of saudis and OIC

      • Mahou Shoujo

        America would do well to resume being America, instead of the western office of islamic expansion.

    • IzlamIsTyranny

      Robert Spencer points out that at any time, the USA is only 5 SCOTUS votes away from implementing islamic blasphemy and/or heresy laws. The SCOTUS will have two seats open for the 2017 POTUS to fill. I wonder who Shillariah will pick to fill those seats?

      • Mahou Shoujo

        There are lots of laws on the books, enforcing then is the problem. hillary will have to play politics even more than hussain as there is a fuse burning behind her, she does not know when it will detonate the bomb that America is becoming.

      • Mahou Shoujo

        If the Constitution was important to Americans, there never would be a problem, but too many are being suckered in by democrats into believing that the government can protect them. Despite the facts on the news every day, the naive believe it will.

  • overboosted ✓ᴰᴱᴾᴸᴼᴿᴬᴮᴸᴱ

    So, Whoopi Goldberg can trademark “One Ho Productions”, but Geller cannot trademark SIOA?

    • BigGaySteve

      Well most similar productions had lots of Hos

  • BigGaySteve

    Anyone here think calling these people “monks” is a lie in a case where a woman was forced to the back of a plane because Pakis got offended?


    Muhammadism is disparaging to it’s victims since sadist tyrant & racist slaver Muhammad & we won’t accept a status quo that respects Muhammadism for the sake of it’s victims while inciting to more of such victims. Ban Islam, respect life & human rights.
    We want worldwide memorials for the innocent death, torture, African slavery, slavery, genital mutilation, pederasty, pedophilia & rape victims of Muhammadism since sadist tyrant & racist slaver Muhammad.


      I meant ‘at the cost of it’s victims’ …we won’t accept a status quo that respects Muhammadism at the expense of it’s victims while inciting to more of such victims. Ban Islam, respect life & human rights.

  • Sam Morris

    There is no need for a Supreme Court ruling. This is America and we live by the laws of America as provided by the U. S. Constitution. The first Amendment was put into the U.S. Constitution to guarantee citizens the Freedom O Speech.

    Sharia Law does not apply in America and it never will. There are no special circumstances and no provision in the U.S. Constitution 1st Amendment for intervention. The 1st Amendment was specifically put into the U.S. Constitution to allow citizens to speak freely without the fear of unjust treatment or control. The framers of the U.S. Constitution and the 1st Amendment wanted to assure that citizens were able to speak or spell words of their opinion and have the freedom for those words to be heard.

    The voice of the people has served well in expression of opinion both as voice and in print, as a reflection of the opinions of the people.

    The complaint here is nothing more than an attempt to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and the 1st Amendment. This is an attempt to challenge the U.S. Constitution be replaced for Sharia Law as if America was a Muslim country.

    Quite simply put, America is not, nor shall it ever be a Muslim country. The United States of America is a country Of The People, By The People and For The People, which the U.S. Constitution was created and the 1st Amendment was created as part of the U.S. Constitution, of which no foreign laws and no 3rd world religions may circumvent any part of the U.S. Constitution and the 1st Amendment.

    • The Enjoyable-Ladydonnalands

      Yep…That sounds great but exponential population growth will blow your theory out of the water by 2100 here in the USA. Europe unfortunately will become an islamic state by 2050 unless the world recognizes and classifies islam as a cult instead of a religion.

      • IzlamIsTyranny

        As David Greenfield has noted: demographics is destiny.

        • The Enjoyable-Ladydonnalands

          Makes sense to me. That’s how they take over and spread like the invasive weeds of evilness they are.

    • IzlamIsTyranny

      Shari’a law is already being enforced, under other auspices, by the “moderate” muslums who run Dearbornistan, Michigan. Don’t believe me? Ask Terry Jones or David Wood.

      • Rational Theist

        Yes that is within Muslim communities. You got a problem?

    • Jack

      Hey, Sam,
      Quite simply put, your approach to this subject is both correct and without merit.
      Your alluding to the Constitution of The United States of America is commendable. However, your willful blindness to the fact that the so called progressives in political positions have, for the last one hundred or so years, been working to program “we the people” to put more stock in their ideological schemes than the original intent of the constitution and have been quite successful. To so many of today’s voters, “Freebies” trump “Freedom”.
      Sam, I appreciate your desire to rely on the integrity of America’s constitution. I share that desire. Where we differ is that I can no longer rely on today’s leaders to protect and abide by the Constitution.
      I recognize the threat and how real it is.
      The wolf is at the door and he is almost in the house.
      It is time to put our faith in whatever means of defense are at our disposal because the door is almost gone.

  • The real and only Toedeladoki

    Please read this .

    Left Sweden advocates openly rooting out people who do not want Islam

  • The real and only Toedeladoki

    Perhaps read this also .

    Oppressive! PvdA and D66 to legally protect Islam against Dutch. (Update: motion adopted!)

  • livingengine

    Join the Human Race! Join the Counter Jihad Movement! Join SIOA on Facebook!

  • Charles Martel

    Any idea when this case will be heard?

  • Jeff Ludwig

    “Disparaging marks”? To me this is inherently unconstitutional. It’s a no brainer. But for those who have no brains, it’s an “issue.”

  • Drew the Infidel

    In many cases of this sort the courts may be in tune with all the legal theory involved but ignorant of the “facts on the ground”. I once coached at a high school with the mascot name of “Warriors” with the Mescalero Apache tribe a big part of the community. In the same vein as Florida State University’s use of the mascot name of “Seminoles”, we stayed in close contact with the tribe to be sure nothing was done to grate their sensibilities. The majority of Redskins fans, many Native Americans, have no problem with the team mascot. It is the Obhammud WH causing the difficulty.

  • Steve

    This impending review brings back memories of recent congressional hearings with a hag, a “lawman”, and aunt jemima where truth was summarily shoved into a hole without a prayer or a gravestone. Good luck with the trademark and don’t hold your breath especially if the hag wins and props up the supreme court with her cronies.

  • hal

    The next civil war in America will be started by the Whites of America whose ancestors brought the intelligence and skills from the old world, and who now see the America they created being destroyed by Non-Whites empowered and imported by Obama and Democrats. It will be as much a race war as it is a war to save
    250 years of values, religion, laws, and way of life. The actions of Obama and Democrats to ignore immigration law and to import millions of diseased Muslim savages, hand them citizenship and voting rights , and create a special racial category for them is all designed to create a non-White voting majority who will rule America. Incredibly stupid White Americans are allowing this destruction to take place and do nothing to prevent their own demise. But all is not lost, and with the 3% of American Patriots who have prepared for such a day and using their superior intelligence and skills they have the advantage over Obamas UN protectors , Muslim Brotherhood, Black Panthers and BLM thugs combined. This is not about Making America Great Again, but saving the America our Forefathers built, fought, and died for.

  • MrMinnesnowtin

    There is nothing in this slogan that is disparaging to anyone. It plainly and neutrally states a political position. There is no basis to even consider whether or not this slogan should be subject to any such review.

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