Sidebar: Supreme Court Could Weigh In on Redskins Trademark Case

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The Oneida Indian Nation held a symposium in 2013 in Washington calling for the Redskins to change their name.

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Drew Angerer for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — There is a federal law that allows the government to discriminate against messages that may disparage people, even the dead, as well as “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”

Such a law would not be out of place in Thailand, where it is a crime to mock the king, or in Turkey, where you can go to jail for insulting “Turkishness.”

Here in the United States, the Patent and Trademark Office uses a federal law, the Lanham Act, to test the distinctively American commitment to free expression by making…

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