A federal judge has ordered the Patent and Trademark Office to cancel registration of the Washington Redskins trademark. The team argued that cancellation of its trademark infringed on its free-speech rights because it required the government to judge whether the name is offensive. Local leaders and pundits have called for a name change.
In Lee’s opinion for the US Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, he ruled against the team and agreed with a previous ruling from the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
“The team has been fighting this case so hard, and leaving no stone unturned, and scorching every square inch of earth that it’s hard to imagine they will not appeal”. “‘Redskin” certainly retains this meaning when used in connection with PFI’s football team; a team that has always associated itself with Native American imagery, with nothing being more emblematic of this association than the use of a Native American profile on the helmets of each member of the football team. Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, has vowed that he will never abandon the name, and says a cancellation of its trademarks would taint its brand and lead to billions in lost revenue. The Redskins can appeal the judge’s ruling. He found that the six trademarks at issue “consisted of matter that “may disparage” a substantial composite of Native Americans”.
Today a federal judge upheld last year’s cancellation of the Redskins trademark, meaning that it will soon be 100 percent legal for those dudes in the parking lot to sell knockoff shirts before the game (or at least to manufacture them). But actually curtailing the use of the name through legal means is complicated.