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The Slants’ Back in Court Over Band Name Trademark Battle

An Asian-American band’s six-year battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will move forward on Friday with a Federal District Court of Appeal hearing.

“We’re just a step below the Supreme Court,” said Simon Tam, 33, founder of The Slants - a Portland, Oregon-based band known for what he calls “Chinatown dance rock."

Tam says he hopes the federal court will reverse the Trademark Trial and Appeal board’s decision to reject his trademark application based on what it saw as a “derogatory” name. Tam has argued that the term “slant” is no longer widely used as an epithet. Since 2009, he’s twice sought trademark protection in order to re-appropriate the name, and make it a positive source of pride. Both applications were rejected.

On Friday, the band’s lawyers will focus on a procedural point - that the Trademark Office prepared evidence before Tam even filed his second application, therefore denying him of due process.

The Slants have recently expanded their reach, beyond anime conventions and Asian-American festivals to national outlets like NPR’s “All Songs Considered,” and South by Southwest. Trademark protection, they argue, could potentially help them grow even more by attracting recording and licensing deals.

Tam says he bristled when a government official suggested he drop the case, and just use the name without trademark protection.

”That’s kind of like saying you can ride on the bus, you just have to sit in the back,” Tam told NBC News. “You can have the name, but have fewer rights than anyone else. That only made me want to fight even harder.”

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