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
    The Honourable Julie Dodds-Streeton , Judge in Residence, Melbourne Law School
  •  Dan Rosen
    Dan Rosen, Professor of Law, Chuo University Law School, Tokyo
  •  Vicki Huang
    Vicki Huang, Lecturer in IP law at the Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University
  •  Susy Frankel
    Susy Frankel, Chair in Intellectual Property and International Trade, School of Law, Victoria University of Wellington
  •  Rochelle Dreyfuss
    Rochelle Dreyfuss, Pauline Newman Professor of Law, Co-Director, Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy, New York University School of Law