This year, “Dykes on Bikes” has something special to celebrate at Pride. The San Francisco organization that has led the parade since their first formal gathering at 1976 San Francisco Pride will be celebrating a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court victory.
Our friends at The Advocate have reported that the group was finally able to register “Dykes on Bikes” as an official trademark after battling in court for 14 years, including two trips to the Supreme Court.
The celebration is bittersweet: Soni Wolf, founding member of “Dykes on Bikes,” died of natural causes at 69 years of age in late April. It’s no doubt that she’d be extra excited about this year’s pride, and it’s no doubt all the dykes on bikes will be honoring her legacy this year.
In 1976, “Dykes on Bikes” started with 25 women bikers and ever since they have traditionally led the SF Pride parade. Over 40 years later, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Lanham Act, which granted U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examiners the right to refuse to register trademarks they considered “disparaging.”
This means that derogatory terms can be refused in Trademarks, which sounds like a good idea, but it can, like in the case with “Dykes on Bikes,” prohibit a group from reclaiming and celebrating a “slur.”
The Asian- American rock group, “The Slants,” had a similar battle and won. They were able to use their name to “reclaim the term and drain its denigrating force as a derogatory term for Asian persons.”
So “Dykes on Bikes” filed an amicus brief in “The Slants” case. Attorney Brooke Oliver argued their trademark case for 14 years. He coauthored the amicus brief with Tobias Barrington Wolff, Mark Lemley, and Michael Feldman, claiming that under the First Amendment lesbians should have the right to political speech.
“’Dykes on Bikes’ uses its trademark to promote civil rights and social justice,” said Oliver. “Trademark registration makes it easier and less expensive to stop others from profiting commercially by infringing on the mark. Our argument on freedom of expression is very much like that of `The Slants.’ The USPTO should not be deciding what is derogatory and what is not, and them doing so is the essence of viewpoint expression.”
We at GO happen to LOVE the word “dyke” and couldn’t be happier that “Dykes on Bikes”is now an official trademark. We’d also love to ride on the back of a babe’s bike this year. So message us (and by us, I mean ME) if you’re down.