A band sought to register its name "The Slants" with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Registration was refused under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), on the ground that applicant’s mark “consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols under Trademark Act Section 2(a).” The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) affirmed the examining attorney's refusal to register.
The TTAB found, "Thus, it is abundantly clear from the record not only that THE SLANTS, used for the identified services, would have the 'likely meaning' of people of Asian descent but also that such meaning has been so perceived and has prompted significant responses by prospective attendees or hosts of the band’s performances. The evidence of public perception of the meaning of THE SLANTS, as used in connection with applicant’s services, shows that meaning to be a derogatory reference to people of Asian descent." The TTAB also rejected the applicant's argument that it had "good intentions" (e.g., taking ownership of a disparaging term): "the fact that applicant has good intentions with its use of the term does not obviate the fact that a substantial composite of the referenced group find the term objectionable". Lastly, the TTAB found that the record established that the slang term “slant” or its plural “slants,” when used to indicate
ethnicity, is disparaging to a substantial composite of the referenced group.