Celebrating supreme victory

The  Supreme Court sided with Portland indie rockers who argued they had a right to call themselves The Slants. The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law is hosting the band in a legal conversation and performance Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Courtesy of The Slants

Back in the spring, Portland indie rockers The Slants were waiting for the highest court in the land to decide if they should continue using their controversial name.

In June, they got their answer. The Supreme Court ruled that yes, indeed, the Asian-American quartet could trademark its name. And on Tuesday, Sept. 12, the band will celebrate the win with Tucson.

The Slants are heading to the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law for conversations and musical interludes. Call it a victory lap to the band's UA visit last April when they were still awaiting the Supreme Court's decision.

Quick rewind of the facts: The Slants eight years ago tried to trademark the name but were rejected on the basis that you can't trademark a disparaging term and particularly one that the the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office contended was racially derogatory. The government based its conclusion on a listing in UrbanDictionary.com  

But the band argued in various courts over the span of those eight years that the government's premise was outdated. Slants founder Simon Tam argued that the word was so rarely used as a racial slur that the New Oxford American Dictionary had erased any reference to its use as a racial slur in recent editions.

On Tuesday, Tam and his bandmates will no doubt recount their long legal journey during three events that are open to the public. Admission is free.

• "Real-life Litigants: The Story of The Slants," noon, Rogers College of Law Room 168, 1201 E. Speedway. UA Professor Derek Bambauer, an expert in censorship and intellectual property, moderates.

• Guest cecture with Simon Tam, 6 p.m., Fred Fox School of Music Room 146, North Park Avenue and East Speedway. Tam has become so well-versed in trademark law as a result of his journey that he could probably teach a course.

• The Slants in concert, 7 p.m., Snell & Wilmer Courtyard at the Rogers College of Law.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.