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Cancellation of Redskins Trademarks Staff Writer

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cancellation of Redskins Trademarks

A registered trademark protects the owner’s exclusive rights to use the trademark and authorize others to use it. The commercial use of a trademark can be worth many millions of dollars, so the protection is at least potentially quite valuable. In order to register a trademark, federal trademark laws state that it must not use “offensive or disparaging language.” Enter the Washington Redskins.

On June 18, 2014, the U. S Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled six of the Washington Redskins’ trademark registrations. In a suit brought by several Native Americans, the Board ruled 2 – 1 that the team’s name and symbols should not have been registered in the first place because they: have an association to American Indians; are disparaging to a substantial number of people; and were offensive when registered from 1967 – 1990. Though the word “Redskins” was affected, the team’s logo is still protected by trademark; furthermore, the team is allowed to retain its trademark protections during appeal. Even if the Washington Redskins lose on appeal, they can continue to use the affected name and symbols but will lack much of the protection provided by trademark registration and will have a considerably tougher time countering unauthorized users of its name and symbols.

Though disagreement about the Washington Redskins’ trademark has heated up in the past year, it endured a similar challenge more than a decade ago. A similar action was brought in the late 1990’s and the Board ruled in the Native Americans’ favor; however, a federal judge overturned the Board’s decision in 2003, ruling that the plaintiffs should have filed the action soon after the Redskins’ nickname was registered in 1967. Largely on the strength of this prior ruling, the Washington Redskins’ spokesman appears confident of the team’s ultimate victory in the current matter. Recalling the prior case’s facts and outcome, the team’s trademark attorney stated, “The evidence in the current claim is virtually identical to the evidence a federal judge decided was insufficient more than ten years ago. We expect the same ultimate outcome here.”

By Kathy Catanzarite

Source: Kathy Catanzarite - Staff Writer

Note from This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author,, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.

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