Redskins Lose Trademark Battle
San Diego – Six Trademarks owned by the Washington Redskins are in the process of being cancelled due to a Federal court ruling. Last year, Navajo activist Amanda Blackhorse along with four other Native Americans sought to cancel the team’s Trademark Registrations due to an offensive connotation of the name “Redskins”. This was successful as the TTAB (Trademark Trial and Appeal Board) ruled in favor of Blackhorse that the registrations were disparaging and should be cancelled.
District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee recently affirmed the previous ruling. However, Judge Lee made a point to state that the Redskins are still free to use the name as they wish. The ruling would simply prevent any federal legal protection relating to the Redskins trademark.
This was another big win for a large group of Native American people that have long protested the Trademark registrations owned by the Redskins. A key aspect boosting their battle was the Lanham Act, specifically quoting the section that “bars trademarks that may disparage or bring people into ‘contempt or disrepute.’”
Attorneys for the Washington Redskins tried to argue that it was within the team’s first amendment right of free speech to use the name as they please. Judge Lee disagreed. Many people directly involved with the team stated their disapproval of the court ruling. The team intends to continue to fight the adverse rulings. Redskins’ President Bruce Allen commented on the ruling by stating that he was surprised with the results, and plans to appeal the district court’s decision. He also stated that the team has used the name for more than 80 years.
In addition, Robert Raskopf, the Redskins’ trademark attorney, argued that the NFL team has spent a lot of time and millions of dollars over the years to invest and protect its intellectual property rights, and a loss in the higher court would be a big upset to the team.
Daniel Snyder, owner of the Redskins, commented that he would never change his team’s name. Instead, he considers the name to be an “honor” to the Native American people.
Posted in: Trademark Registration