Patent Office Cancels Washington Redskins Trademark Registration

The already heated debate over the continued use of the term “Redskins” by the Washington, D.C., NFL team got hotter this morning, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceling the team’s trademark registration, saying it is “disparaging of Native Americans.”

The trademark cancellation doesn’t mean that the team has to change its name. It just means that — pending inevitable appeals — the team could lose its exclusive use of the controversial word on football-related items. The trademark will remain in effect while the team goes through the appeals process, which could take several years.

Given how much the team could lose on licensing deals and merchandise, it might behoove the organization to consider a name change to a name that isn’t offensive to an entire section of the population.

It’s against the law to register trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” A group of five Native Americans challenged the registration eight years ago, marking the second time this has been done.

This is also the second time the Trademark office has canceled the registration. Fifteen years ago, the USPTO agreed with petitioners that the trademark was offensive, but a federal court ultimately ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to file their complaint.

A lawyer who has repped the team since before the previous challenge tells the Washington Post that “just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.”

The team has been under increased pressure to change the name, which many Native Americans but owner Dan Snyder maintains that it honors the very people who are calling for the name to be changed.

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  1. mrkake says:

    I totally think the name should be changed and is in poor taste — however, I think it’s pretty stupid also for the trademark office to take a stance on that issue. The trademark office should not be able to take a trademark away that they previously granted just because it is deemed racist or otherwise. Although the word “redskins” was likely always considered racist by native americans, it obviously was not always considered to be racist by the general public (perhaps because they never even thought twice about it). So, why once the general public ‘wakes up’ so to speak, do you suddenly lose your trademark? That doesn’t make sense. The team should change the name because the owner wants to change the name. It’s really not good that he doesn’t want to change the name. However, the trademark office getting involved does not help the case. And, if the name is changed after something like this, it will be for the wrong reasons, and doesn’t prove anything, and doesn’t solve any of the underlying problem. You can’t just stop people from being racist by “forcing them to”, and that kind of behavior if anything, probably makes racism worse by angering those people, distracting them from sitting down and actually thinking about things.