Say Goodbye To The Name ‘Redskins’? U.S. Patent Office Canceled Trademark

Activism, Indigenous Peoples

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The trademark for the Redskins football team has been CANCELLED in what is a landmark U.S. Patent Office decision.

In total, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins. The office ruled that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans.” As such, it cannot be used as a trademarked name under federal law prohibiting the protection of offensive or disparaging language.

Just like that, we may well have just seen the  end of the debate over the “Redskins” name.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board have issued a ruling this morning in the case which was brought against the team by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse.

“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board said in their landmark decision.

The Board explains how it reached their decision saying that “The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with our clients that the team’s name and trademarks disparage Native Americans. The Board ruled that the Trademark Office should never have registered these trademarks in the first place,” Jesse Witten, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a press release. “We presented a wide variety of evidence – including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups – to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur.”

Blackhorse responded to the decision, saying in a statement that “I am extremely happy that [they] ruled in our favor. It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans. We filed our petition eight years ago and it has been a tough battle ever since. I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed. The team’s name is racist and derogatory. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – if people wouldn’t dare call a Native American a ‘redskin’ because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?”

The team will appeal the case, according to a statement from the Redskin’s franchise attorney. Furthermore, the PTO pointed out that they cannot force them to stop using the name, they can only  determine whether a mark may continue to be registered… After the appeals are exhausted, if the decision stands, they will not be able to continue using the name as a registered trademark, which in effect will likely force them to stop using it altogether.

The team ownership, however, says they are confident they will prevail in their appeal of the decision.

“We’ve seen this story before. And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo,” team attorney Bob Raskopf said in the aforementioned statement. “We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trial and Appeal Board’s divided ruling will be overturned on appeal. This case is no different than an earlier case.”

(Article by Mike Ahnigilahi; image via Indigenous Artist Gregg Deal)

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