Trade Marks & Free Speech: Perspectives on The Slants Case


Trade Marks & Free Speech: Perspectives on The Slants Case

The US Supreme Court’s decision in Matal v. Tam. 582 U.S. ___ (2017) has been described as rocking the IP world (or alternatively deeply controversial) in holding the Lanham Act’s “disparagement clause” unconstitutional. The unanimous verdict was issued on an application by Simon Tam of the Asian-American rock band The Slants seeking to “reclaim” the derogatory term “The Slants” by registering it as the band’s trade mark. As Alito J put it, speech that disparages may be hateful but under the First Amendment judges protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”

In this seminar we hear perspectives from four trade mark academics and a former Australian federal court judge on the meaning, significance and implications of the decision for trade mark, branding and language practices.


  • The Honourable Julie Dodds-Streeton
  • Professor Dan Rosen
    Professor Dan Rosen, Professor of Law at Chuo University Law School, Tokyo
  • Ms Vicki Huang
    Ms Vicki Huang, Lecturer in IP law at the Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University
  • Professor Susy Frankel
    Professor Susy Frankel, Professor of Law and Director of the New Zealand Centre of International Economic Law at Victoria University of Wellington
  • Professor Pauline Newman
    Professor Pauline Newman, Professor of Law and Co-Director, Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy