On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that a law denying federal trademark protection to names that are deemed disparaging is unconstitutional. “It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the unanimous decision (though the justices were split on the exact reasoning).

While many observers saw the case as a potential win for the Washington Redskins — who have sought to keep their trademarks in the face of claims that the team name is a racial slur — the decision actually concerned the Slants, a small Asian-American band from Oregon that describes its style as “Chinatown dance rock.”

The group, whose latest release is called “The Band Who Must Not Be Named,” first had its trademark rejected in 2010 on the grounds that it was hurtful to a stigmatized community; the Slants contended that the name was simply reclaiming a weaponized term, and that marginalized groups should “determine what’s best for ourselves.”

In the years of court battles that followed, the Slants and their frontman, Simon Tam, received support from organizations like the Asian American Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union. Others, like Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), noted in a neutral amicus brief that “socially progressive reclamation movements are not an excuse to open federal trademark registration to vile epithets and hateful marks.”

In light of the ruling, Mr. Tam, who said in an interview that he was feeling humbled and overwhelmed, discussed the issues raised by his long legal fight and how it feels to be accidentally allied with the Redskins. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Where did the name the Slants originally come from?

It came from me asking around friends when I was trying to think of a band name. I said, “What’s something you think all Asians have in common?” and they told me slanted eyes. That’s interesting because, No. 1, it’s not true — not all Asians have slanted eyes and Asians aren’t the only people that have a slant to our eyes. But No. 2, it worked [as a name] because we could talk about our perspective — our slant on life, as people of color navigating the entertainment industry — and at the same time, pay homage to the Asian-American activists who had been using the term in a reappropriated, self-empowering way for about 30 years. We know that irony and wit can neutralize racial slurs, because it shifts the dynamics of power. It makes people check in and think, “Is this actually appropriate to use or not?” Prior to that, people just make assumptions.

How was the initial rejection of your trademark explained to you?

My attorney called me and said, “Hey, we have a problem with your registration.” I thought I’d messed up the paperwork. But he said, “No, all that’s fine, but they rejected it because they said your name is disparaging to people of Asian descent.” And I thought it was a practical joke. Up until that point, we had not received a single formal complaint by any Asian-American and we’d been touring for several years. There was never an incident. I asked who they found that thought it was offensive, and he said, “Nobody, but they did quote UrbanDictionary.com,” and there was a photo of Miley Cyrus pulling her eyes back in a slant-eyed gesture. That set us on this long, long path.

How much time, energy and money have you spent on this case?

About one-fifth of my life — years I’ll never get back. It’s been pro bono for the last six years, but I was still responsible for appellate printing, court fees and that sort of thing — tens of thousands [of dollars]. I basically walked away from being a full-time musician to take second and third jobs to pay for the legal fees.

Has the press attention around the case ultimately been a boon for the band, in terms of reaching more people?

It’s a double-edged sword. People will say they’ve heard about our band, but they say they’ve never bothered checking out our music. I want to be known for our music, not for an obscure trademark law that we helped take down.

How do you reconcile the idea that while this decision is a win for the Slants, it could also help the Redskins and others who are not trying to reclaim terms, but are profiting from names that others may find offensive?

It’s a win for all marginalized groups. It can’t be a win for free speech if some people benefit and others don’t. The First Amendment protects speech even that we disagree with. You can’t say you want to shut down the conversation for other people, because that doesn’t advance progress. No one builds better communities by shutting people out.

Have you ever received a personal thank you from the Redskins or the team owner Daniel Snyder?

No, but if I ever did, I’d be happy to send them some legal bills.