WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether the Slants, an Asian-American rock band from Portland, Oregon, can trademark its name despite the government’s objection that it is an offensive term.

This clash between free speech and trademark protection has drawn wide attention in part because the Washington Redskins football team is locked in the same dispute.

Simon Tam, the founder of the band, said his aim was to adopt a word that had been a slur directed at Asians in order to make fun of the term. But officials at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Tam’s application for a protected trademark.

The decision did not prevent the band from using the name, but trademark status can be valuable in preventing others from using the same or similar name in marketing.

When Tam and the Slants sued, a federal appeals court struck down part of a 1946 law that tells the government to reject trademarks that “disparage … persons, living or dead.” The judges said the law violated Tam’s right to free speech.

The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court and argued that awarding a trademark is a government benefit, not a limit on private speech.

The Supreme Court justices met behind closed doors this week to sift through pending appeals and announced they would hear eight new cases, including the trademark dispute in Lee vs. Tam.

The outcome is likely to determine whether Washington’s NFL team will lose its trademark status. Native Americans have sued the team, contending the name Redskins is offensive and disparaging, and the government office agreed its trademark status should be withdrawn. The team has appealed that decision to the high court.

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