U.S. Patent Office Cancels Redskins Trademark as Disparaging, Fueling Opposition to Team Name

Saturday, June 21, 2014
Dan Snyder (phto: Reuters)

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) this week handed Native American groups a huge victory in their fight against pro football’s Washington Redskins by cancelling the team’s trademark.


Patent officials called the team name “disparaging to Native Americans,” effectively fueling the growing public opposition to the club’s longtime use of a racial slur.


“Petitioners have found a preponderance of evidence that a substantial amount of Native Americans found the term Redskins to be disparaging when used in connection with professional football,” the ruling said. “While this may reveal differing opinions with the community, it does not negate the opinions of those who find it disparaging.”


The ruling did not apply to the team’s logo, which means it can still have a monopoly on marketing millions of dollars in merchandise with the team insignia.


In the meantime, Native Americans and others continue to call on Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, to choose a new name. To date, Snyder has refused to budge on the issue and has sworn to fight the battle in court.


The club intends to appeal the USPTO decision by relying on a previous ruling in the hopes of prevailing, according to Bob Raskopf, the trademark attorney for the team. “We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s divided ruling will be overturned on appeal. This case is no different than an earlier case, where the Board cancelled the Redskins’ trademark registrations, and where a federal district court disagreed and reversed the Board,” Raskopf said in a statement.


Fifteen years ago, a USPTO panel voted to cancel the trademarks after Native American groups voiced complaints. That decision was eventually overturned, with the court ruling that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Patent Office: Redskins ‘Disparaging’ (by Darren Rovell, ESPN)

Federal Agency Cancels Redskins Trademark Registration, Says Name Is Disparaging (by Theresa Vargas, Washington Post)

Washington Redskins’ Trademark Registrations Cancelled (by Bill Chappell, National Public Radio)

Amanda Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Proud To Be (National Congress of Indians) (video)

Anti-Discrimination Group Challenges High School’s Arab Mascot (by Ken Broder, AllGov)


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