Simon Tam ended his speech in front of a group of Grossmont College students with these words of inspiration: “But for me, it all began with fighting a name that was worth fighting for, and that name was The Slant.”
The Slant is the name of Tam’s Asian-American rock band. It’s a name that Tam fought for (and won) in a trademark case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tam said he took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused to give a trademark to his band.
“They [The government] said that my work was disparaging or offensive to my community but really I took issue with that because we were doing great work with our community, doing anti-racist programs, and they called me a ‘troublemaker’ because I kept pushing back on this idea -- that I fought against this outdated law from the 1940s that was basically, kind of affecting my ability to work,” said Tam.
Tam returned to his alma mater, Grossmont College, Wednesday to talk about his new book, “Slanted: How an Asian American Troublemaker Took on the Supreme Court.”
The book is now a part of Grossmont College’s English Department’s Fall Reading Series.
Tam’s trademark case is now being used to help other similar cases.
“One recent case was last year, some Black Lives Matter protestors were labeled as terrorists by the police department but the judge in the case ended up citing my case as precedent saying no, the government doesn’t get to make that decision – they don’t get to make these blanket statements and these people have the fundamental right to their First Amendment rights,” said Tam.
While Tam’s case is helping others, and is the inspiration for his new book, he’s happy that the legal process is over and he can share his real, honest experiences with others.
“For the people involved it’s a very different picture, it’s a very different life that you’re led. In fact, it kind of derails what life will look like for you for the rest of your life, if you choose to go down that path. I’m glad I did it. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody but I want to share that story so people know what it’s actually like and what it takes to fight for those things we care the most about,” said Tam.