June 19th, 2017: Victory!
It was with great excitement that we read today the United States Supreme Court's decision in the case of (Matel) Lee vs. Tam, a case in which the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes®, filed an Amicus Brief in support of Tam and The Slants. The Court unanimously found it unconstitutional to prohibit the trademark registration of a mark by the United States Patent Trademark Office based on what some may consider disparaging language. This 8-0 decision by the Supreme Court holds that the First Amendment prohibits individual government officials from deciding which names are offensive and which are not. We know all too well
based on own experience registering the trademark Dykes on Bikes®,
that leaving decisions about free speech to individual officials leads
to arbitrariness and inconsistency from the Patent Trademark Office
examiners. We agree wholeheartedly and for more than 12 years have
been arguing at every different level of the United States judicial
system that under the First Amendment we have protection for political
speech, including the self-referential term "Dykes".
To be clear though, and as we stated in the Amicus Brief, we do not
endorse the use of the term "redskins" for a football team. Both the
Dykes on Bikes and The Slants have reclaimed self-referential terms in
efforts to trademark our names on behalf of the groups to which we
respectively belong. The Washington Redskins is not a group reclaiming
insulting language on its own terms. Rather it is the use of a racist
epithet to describe a group it is not a part of. While the First
Amendment protects people from abuse of power by government, we as a
society have a responsibility to make good decisions under that
protection. We urge the NFL drop the name "Redskins".
With today's decision in place we look forward to moving forward our
previously suspended logo trademark application with the Patent
Trademark Office and will relentless protect the name "Dykes on Bikes"
as a term of Pride in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and queer equality.
Our organization would not be where it is today without the incredible support we receive. We would like to thank our legal team including Lead counsel Brooke Oliver (http://www.50balmy.com/about/brooke-oliver) with Trinh Nguyen, paralegal of 50 Balmy Law PC in San Francisco, and renowned constitutional law practitioners Tobias Barrington Wolff (https://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/twolff) and Mark Lemley of Durie Tangri (https://durietangri.com/attorneys/mark-lemley).
As the world knows when Dykes on Bikes rumble down the streets in
Pride Celebrations all over the world - WE WILL NEVER BE SILENT!
2016 Update: Our journey is not over yet.
On December 16, 2016 our amazing Counsel Brooke Oliver with 50 Balmy Law and co-counsel, filed an Amicus brief for the the Dykes on Bikes® with the US Supreme Court in the case of Lee vs Tam.
Nearly a decade ago (details below) we victoriously registered "Dykes on Bikes" with the USPTO (US Patent Trade Office). In 2016 year we applied to trademark our logo (which includes our name), but were denied because the USPTO claims that our self-identification as Dykes on Bikes is "derogatory" to lesbians.
Wait, what? The USPTO accepted the term Dykes on Bikes in 2007 but when we use the same words in a logo it is rejected as "derogatory"? EXACTLY!!!
This is a fight for self-identification and political speech that is now in it's 13th year.
Thank you to Brooke and the team at 50 Balmy Law, Mark Lemley and Michael Feldman at Durie Tangri, Tobias Barrington Wolff, Shannon Minter of The National Center for Lesbian Rights, and everyone else who has, and continues, to work so hard on our behalf.
With the incredible support of many people, we have fought hard for and reclaimed the name Dykes on Bikes® to support non-profit, community and education efforts in the LGBT and women’s motorcycle communities.
In 1976 a small group of 20 - 25 women motorcyclists gathered at the head of the San Francisco Pride Parade and, unbeknownst to them, a tradition began. One of these women coined the phrase “Dykes on Bikes®” and the San Francisco Chronicle picked it up and ran with it. For the next several years, riders just showed up and rode—no formal organization or registration. It was this way for several years until the middle to late 1980s. However, as SF Pride became more structured and our numbers kept growing, the need to organize Dykes on Bikes® became necessary; thus, the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent (WMC) was born.. However, in the press and LGBT culture, we continued to be known as Dykes on Bikes®.
The WMC was started by LB Gunn, Kalin Elliot-Arns, Christine Elliot, Sabine Balden and Mel. This name was used to make the group appeal to all women motorcyclists. The first meetings were held at a private home and then moved to an upstairs room at Amelia’s, a dyke/lesbian bar. When Amelia’s closed, the meetings were moved to The Eagle Tavern, at 12th St. and Harrison St., where meetings continue to be held. In 2003, the organizers voted to recognize our long history by changing the name To the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes® Women’s Motorcycle Contingent (SFDOBWMC). Today we register and organize over 400 bikes for the San Francisco Pride Parade.
San Francisco is the mother chapter for the Dykes on Bikes® community. We have fought hard for and reclaimed the name Dykes on Bikes® to support non-profit, community and education efforts in the LGBT and women’s motorcycle communities. The San Francisco Dykes on Bikes® and Brook Oliver Law Group, P.C. filed and successfully fought the US Patent Trademark Office for the right to trademark our name “Dykes on Bikes” for non-commercial use. Our journey took 5 years (spanning 2003 to 2008) and was supported by many people and organizations including the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Townsend and Townsend and Crew. After being denied by the US Patent Trademark Office we took our case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and eventually to the Supreme Court who refused to hear a challenge to our to trademark our name, thus affirming the decision by the lower court to allow registration of the name. We could not have done it without all the help provided by our community, incredible legal team and the hard work of the patch holders, Board of Directors and Officers of the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes.