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Matal v. Tam

This case involves the constitutionality of a trademark law provision the prohibits the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering a “disparaging” trademark. The case arose when the PTO refused to register “The Slants,” the name of an Asian-American rock band. The band’s front-man challenged the PTO’s decision and contended that the statute prohibiting registration of disparaging marks violated his First Amendment rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed in an en banc ruling, and the government successfully sought review in the Supreme Court. Public Citizen filed a brief in support of neither party. The brief argues that if the statute restricts or burdens any speech at all, the affected speech is commercial speech, and the statute therefore should not be subject to strict scrutiny under the First Amendment. The brief takes no position on whether the law would be constitutional if judged under the intermediate scrutiny applicable to commercial speech restrictions.