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Rebecca Tushnet, The First Amendment Walks into a Bar: Trademark Registration and Free Speech, Notre Dame L. Rev. 381 (2016).

Abstract: This Essay analyzes the First Amendment arguments against §2(a)’s disparagement bar with reference to the consequences of any invalidation on the rest of the trademark statute. Ultimately, given the differences — or lack thereof — between disparagement and other bars in the statute, I conclude that §2(a) is generally constitutional as a government determination about what speech it is willing to approve, if not endorse. If the Supreme Court disagrees, it will face a difficult job distinguishing other aspects of trademark law. And these difficulties signal a greater problem: the Court has lost touch with the reasons that some content-based distinctions might deserve special scrutiny. Often, perfectly sensible and by no means censorious regulations that depend on identifying the semantic content of speech would fall afoul of a real application of heightened scrutiny, to no good end.