Washington Redskins Trademark Cancelled, Held to be Disparaging

By Joseph Mandour on July 1, 2014

Closeup of American Football on FieldLos Angeles – A recent ruling by the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the NFL’s Washington Redskins nickname is “disparaging” will provide a shot in the arm for those who have been vocal advocates of changing the team’s name.  The ruling no doubt increases the financial and political pressure for a movement that has been gaining momentum over the last two years.  The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board voted 2-1 in support of the name change and even President Barack Obama has weighed in on the topic encouraging the team to consider changing the name.

As for the Redskins, they wasted no time in announcing that they will appeal the ruling and that the team’s name will continue to have common law trademark protection, even as the legal wrangling continues.  Redskins’ trademark attorneys say the ruling will have no effect on the team’s ownership of and the right to use the Redskins name and logo. The team’s owner also maintains that the name is not used to ridicule Native Americans, but has been used with respect and honor, and is a source of pride among many American Indians.

The ruling essentially involves use of the Redskins name, which has been trademarked by the team between the years 1967 and 1990. However, it does not include the team’s Native American head logo.  If the ruling stands, the team can continue to use the name but it will become more of a challenge for the Redskins to go after those who print the team’s trademark on clothing or gear without proper permission.  The ruling could prove costly for the franchise and could lead to the loss of millions of dollars each year including lost sponsorships.

Those who are in support of changing the name are trying to appeal to the team owner’s sense of morality to make him stop using what many consider a racial slur.  This ruling gives credence to that position and many are hoping that the trademark ruling will nudge the team or the NFL in the direction of changing the name.  Perhaps a change to the Washington Indians is in order.

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