A Northwest band says the U.S. Patent and Trademark office is denying a request to trademark their band name because the office thinks the name is racist.
Simon Tam, the bass player for “The Slants” tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the office has told them repeatedly that their band name can’t be trademarked.
“They said it’s a term that is offensive to Asian Americans, that is disparaging to us, even though they didn’t find any actual Asian Americans who were offended by it.”
Tam says all five members of the band are Asian and the term hasn’t been used as a racial slur since the 1940s.
“The term itself has neutral connotations and so to me, it seems odd that all of a sudden it becomes something that is negative or derogatory when a member of its own community uses it.”
The band has even called upon experts and the Asian community at large to try to prove to the trademark office that the name is not one that Asians find offensive.
“The first time around when we filed the reply, we sent letters from Asian American activists from throughout the country, media sources, and other examples of Asians using the term in kind of a clever way from documentaries to film festivals to magazines and so on,” says Tam. “We even did an independent national survey of about 3,500 Asian Americans, and the overwhelming majority, 92 percent, supported what we were doing.”
They even called upon linguist experts and an editor at the New American Oxford Dictionary to put together a report on what the word means and how it’s use is not offensive. Tam says the only reference the trademark office cites as to the word’s offense is urbandictionary.com and asianjokes.com.
While Tam admits he would be offended if someone shouted the term at him in a derogatory way, he says there are lots of words that could be used that way.
“Someone could call me Chinese in a negative way too or anything else,” says Tam. “There’s certainly certain types of speech that could be considered rude or inappropriate, but I don’t think it’s to a point that it should be barred from use from those people.”
“I totally agree,” says Dori. “I can’t believe you’re being denied this trademark by the U.S. government when all five band members are Asian American.”