It couldn’t have been easier, or much more important.
The U.S. Supreme Court Monday struck down a portion of federal law that banned the granting of “offensive” trademarks.
The fact that the ruling was unanimous made it a slam-dunk.
The ruling was widely regarded as a victory for the National Football League’s Washington Redskins, critics of whom want the team stripped of its trademark for being offensive to American Indians.
The fact is, while the ruling does protect the team, the court was actually dealing with the government’s refusal to grant a trademark to an Asian-American rock band calling itself “The Slants.” The government, in effect, had told the Asian-American musicians that they were being racist toward – Asians? Absurd, of course.
But more importantly, who gets to decide when a name or a trademark is “offensive”? The government? Do we really want the feds to be our official censors, our minders, the arbiters of what is and isn’t socially acceptable?
Be careful what you wish for.
In this day and age, with instant communications and a consumer society able to trade views in seconds, the free market is fully capable of policing itself on matters of taste. The justices sitting on the U.S. Court of Public Opinion – that’s all of us – are quite adept at deciding what is and isn’t acceptable on the open market.
A highly biased lead on a New York Daily News article wrote, “Offensive trademarks are A-OK with the Supreme Court.” Wrong. Freedom is A-OK with the Supreme Court. Self-determination, and the ability of mature people to judge things for themselves, is A-OK with the Supreme Court.
It’s A-OK with us, too.