Caesar Sant is a four-year-old child prodigy with a gift for playing the violin.
- Posted on May 11th 2011 5:00PM by Robert Ham
But when the Slants found out they weren't alone in wanting to use that moniker, they followed the advice of their lawyer and started the process of trademarking the band name.
"We wanted to protect the overall branding of the band," Slants' bassist/manager Simon Tam tells Spinner. "Our attorney said some pretty major cases have come up with bands that had to legally change their name because of similar disputes."
What began as a fairly cut-and-dried process, though, has turned into one heck of an ordeal. The US Patent and Trademark Office has rejected both attempts by the Slants to register their name, citing the fact that the term was, at one time, used to disparage people of Asian descent.
"The first time we had filed, it really caught us off guard," says Tam, "especially for a band that is so appreciated by the Asian-American community."
The Slants made another attempt to file a trademark claim, sending along articles about the band from Asian-American news sources and letters of support from activists and leaders of non-profits advocating on behalf of the Asian-American community. But again, the Trademark Office dismissed the claim with a note saying that, according to UrbanDictionary.com, "slants" is a derogatory term. To top it off, reveals Tam, the Office "found an anonymous post from a message board from 2007 that said they found the band name offensive.
"It's almost as if they made their decision before they even opened up our response because they were afraid to touch it or because they thought it was politically incorrect."
This isn't the first time the Slants have met with issues surrounding their name. Tam was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at an Asian-American Youth Leadership Conference in 2009, but because of his association with his band -- which was also scheduled to perform at the event -- Oregon's then-governor Ted Kulongoski pulled the state's funding for the conference.
Tam and the band are now gearing up to apply yet again for a trademark, working with Asian-American Studies professors, linguists and even the founder of the Slant Film-Festival, an annual short-film fest in Houston, Texas, to put together even more documentation stating their claim that the Slants is meant as a celebratory term. The band might even head right to the source and make an oral argument to representatives of the Trademark Office in Washington D.C.
"At what point does a government entity have the right to dictate what is right for a community, especially an agency that has no connection with the community to begin with?" asks Tam. "It'd be one thing if there were a massive outcry from Asians saying, 'We find what they're doing offensive and it belittles our community' -- but we can't find that at all."
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