News Release

For Immediate Release
Nov. 17, 2016

                                                    For More Information, Contact:
                                                    Brett Schuster, Communications Manager
                                          , 202-775-9555

National Affinity Bar Associations File Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Case
Affecting Trademark Registration of Disparaging Remarks


WASHINGTON — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) joins the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Bar Association (NBA), the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), the National LGBT Bar Association (LGBT Bar), and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality (Korematsu Center) in jointly filing an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court supporting the constitutionality of the rules governing the registration of a trademark.

The case, Lee v. Tam, appeals a decision by the Federal Circuit which found Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act unconstitutional under a facial challenge brought by Simon Shiao Tam, who attempted to register a trademark for his band, “The Slants.”

“Asian Pacific Americans and other communities are all too familiar with the damage by racial slurs and epithets,” said NAPABA President Cyndie Chang. “While it is important to reclaim historically disparaging terms and exercise free speech, this case is about whether one can or should have federal protection and exclusivity in the use of racial slurs in commercial speech. The support of the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National Native American Bar Association, and the National LGBT Bar Association highlights the impact that the outcome of this case will have if the Supreme Court allows slurs to be normalized in commercial speech (and federally protected on behalf of a single trademark owner). The Federal Circuit decision opens the door to federally registering offensive terms with different motivations than those expressed by Tam.”

The national affinity bar brief addresses the facial challenge brought against Section 2(a) under consideration by the Supreme Court. The brief argues that Congress has the ability to regulate commercial speech, including trademarks. Section 2(a) is not a ban on either reclamation of terms or use under the common law, but rather is a mechanism for dealing with the harmful effects of racial, national origin, and religious discrimination on interstate commerce. Finally, the brief discusses the impact that the ruling of the Federal Circuit has on the ability of applicants to trademark terms like “Redskins” and other slurs offensive to diverse communities.

NAPABA previously filed an amicus brief in this case when it was before the Federal Circuit. NAPABA also joined NNABA and the Korematsu Center in an earlier-filed amicus brief in the related case, Blackhorse v. Pro-Football Inc., before the Fourth Circuit.          

Attorneys from Perkins Coie LLP serve as counsel for amici in this brief. A copy of the brief may be found here.

For more information, the media may contact Brett Schuster, NAPABA communications manager, at 202-775-9555 or

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of almost 50,000 attorneys and approximately 75 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members include solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal services and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government.

NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

To learn more about NAPABA, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@NAPABA).

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