Simon Tam (plaintiff) was an Asian-American singer who sought to register the name of his band, “the Slants,” as a trademark. The band had chosen the name, which was a derogatory term for persons of Asian descent, as a way to counteract such stereotypes. The examining attorney refused the registration on the grounds that the mark violated § 2(a) of the Lanham Act, known as the disparagement clause, which prohibits the registration of marks that may disparage persons, institutions, or beliefs. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board upheld the refusal to register, and Tam appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit held that the disparagement clause was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s free speech clause. The Supreme Court granted the federal government’s petition for certiorari.