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Press Release

Fish Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of 26 Members of Congress

December 20, 2016

Press Release

Fish Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of 26 Members of Congress

December 20, 2016

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In late November 2016, Fish filed a pro bono Amicus Brief on behalf of twenty-six members of Congress, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to deny federal trademark protection to racist, sexist, and homophobic words. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus composed the majority of the 26 members on whose behalf Fish filed.

The case, Lee v. Tam, asks whether the First Amendment restricts the United States Patent and Trademark Office from rejecting trademarks that disparage groups of people.  It features the USPTO’s appeal of a free speech ruling that would force it to register the mark “The Slants” as a name for an Asian-American rock band.  The PTO denied the registration to the group on the basis that the term is disparaging to Asians, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the USPTO’s decision violates the First Amendment on the basis of free speech.

The case is scheduled for argument on January 18, 2017, before the Supreme Court.

Fish attorneys John Johnson, John Dragseth, and Brian Apel handled the brief while working closely with the members of the Amici, crafting the position that trademark registration is a two-way street where someone will have their free speech rights harmed by a PTO decision to register or not to register, suggesting that Congress certainly has the power to draw the line it drew in the statute.

Fish represented the accomplished Members of Congress who joined in the brief, including Rep. John Lewis (GA), who led the 1963 March on Washington; Rep. Doris Matsui (CA), who was born in a WWII internment camp; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI), the first Hindu member of the United States Congress and one of its first female combat veterans, among others.

“We were honored to help these Members of Congress in such an important case,” said Dragseth.  “Through their own personal experiences and those of their constituents, they had a unique perspective to share with the Supreme Court, and we were happy to help them do that.”

To read Fish’s full amicus brief, visit here.

To learn more about Fish’s pro bono program, visit Fish’s pro bono page here.

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