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Washington, DC NFL Team Files Trademark for “Washington Football Team”

San Diego – On July 23, 2020, the trademark for “Washington Football Team” was filed with the USPTO under application number 90069568. This move came as Pro Football, Inc., the corporate owner of the NFL team, has come under the national spotlight again regarding its previous name, the Washington Redskins.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests across the United States in the summer of 2020, FedEx, the team’s stadium sponsor, threatened to withdraw funding if the team did not change its name. Shortly after the ultimatum, on July 13 2020, the football team announced it would retire the 87-year-old name and rebrand the franchise.

Due to the complexities of creating a new name and logo, the team announced last week that it would play the 2020-2021 season under the interim name of the Washington Football Team. A spokesman for the team stated that it would take 12 to 18 months to do a proper rebrand for the team.
The new interim trademark is a simple word mark, filed under the 1B intent to use filing basis. It is meant to protect professional football exhibitions and games, as well as a variety of different clothing items, including jerseys, t-shirts, and fleeces. This word trademark filing gives the football team a significant amount of leeway to produce marketing materials when it comes to choosing font, color, and word placement.

This isn’t the first time the team’s trademark has been a matter of public interest. In 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) voided the Washington Redskins trademark because it found the name “disparaging of Native Americans.” At the time, this was a violation of the Lanham Act which specifically prohibited such trademarks from receiving trademark protection. After the ruling voided all the team’s the trademarks, it was still permitted to use the logo under free speech rights, but it could not bring trademark infringement lawsuits against others using the team logo or name on merchandise.

Although the Eastern District of Virginia upheld the cancelling of the Redskins trademarks in 2015, two years later the Supreme Court held that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act was a violation of First Amendment freedom of speech cases. The ruling in Matel v. Tam allowed the Redskins to reinstate its previous trademarks and prevent others from selling merchandise bearing the logo and team name.

Despite its previous commitment to keeping the Redskins name, there has been interest in and speculation about the team changing its names for a number of years. One long term Washington football fan has trademarked a number of potential new team names over the past five years with the goal of encouraging the team to pick a new name. Philip Martin McCauley’s trademarks include the Washington Monuments, the Washington Warriors, and the Washington Red Wolves. At the beginning of July, Mr. McCauley offered the trademarks to his local team for free but did not receive a response.

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