Hailing from Portland, Oregon, The Slants have become quite a common name in the convention community. They’re an Asian-American dance rock band formed to “empower people of color, celebrate our respective heritages, and of course, have an outlet for our artistic expression.” They have been a big hit, performing from coast to coast, and when their attorney suggested they trademark their name, The Slants had no idea of the battle they would be starting.
Since initially putting the name in to the Trademark Office, the band has been fighting a four-year battle: “Our band name is “The Slants,” a reference to our perspective, or “slant,” on APA life. Despite it being an otherwise neutral word, the Trademark Office rejected our case, believing it inappropriate for Asians to use the term in any matter: positive, negative, or otherwise.
In other words, I was denied a right because of my race. They said our band was “too Asian” because not of our all-Asian American lineup, but because also we collaborate with other Asian artists and organizations. If I wasn’t Chinese-American, this would not be a problem. In the entire history of the Trademark Office, no other application was accused of racial connotations for the term “slant” (there’s been almost 800). But this Asian American screwed things up by trying to trademark a term that could only be used by non-Asians.”
Because of this treatment, The Slants have been speaking out. TIME magazine, CBS, BBC World News, and many other outlets have shared their story to get the word out. Denying a name being considered racist, while others can use obviously racial names, is prejudiced and needs to be addressed. Simon Tam, bassist and manager of the band, has openly discussed everything taking place and how they plan to continue fighting the Trademark Office; “Not only did the Trademark Office present abysmal evidence (such as relying on urbandictionary.com), but they even deliberately distorted evidence in their favor. For example, they refer to an incident where an invitation for our band to perform at an Asian youth conference was rescinded, claiming it was due to outrage over the band’s name. However, a member of the organization’s board provided legal testimony that it wasn’t the case: we were cancelled due to logistics and concerns from a Christian school over the secular nature of our lyrics. In fact, they still referred to the band in the printed program and website, and I assisted with panel moderation. We sent copies of the program along with the testimony. Yet, the Trademark Office’s attorney continued to argue otherwise, ignoring that-and over 2,000 pages of evidence submitted.
We’re fighting for more than a band name, we’re fighting for the right of self-determination for all minorities. If our case wins, we can help change this absurd law that has been affecting minorities for over 70 years now. It’s winning the right for minorities to have equal protection in the marketplace…but most of all, equal recognition in commercial law.”
If you’d like to help The Slants continue to gain more ground in their legel battle, you can sign their petition here.
To read more of what has been taking place, in Simon’s words, his article is located here.