In a 2-1 ruling today the U.S. Patent Office decided that the Washington Redskins six federal trademarks using the word Redskins should be cancelled because they deemed the established team name “disparaging of Native Americans.” The recent concern follows a recent campaign that has garnered some attention over the past several months.
Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins, cites decades of tradition and refuses to change the team name despite the more recent politically-correct climate. Civil rights organization, a group of lawmakers from both parties and President Barack Obama have made the news urging Snyder to accede to their demands.
The Redskins will not lose any trademark protection. In fact, the decision does not even apply to the team’s logo. Furthermore, the Redskins will retain all rights during an expected upcoming appeal.
The current decision means that the Redskins are still permitted to use the name but the team could lose a great deal of their legal ability to protect their financial interests related to the use of the name. It would be more difficult to stop any unofficial use of the name Redskins by merchandise counterfeiters.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board made a similar decision in 1999 that was overturned in 2003. The court then ruled that the plaintiffs should have filed their complaint shortly after the Redskins registered the team name in 1967.
This new case was started in 2006 by a group of young Native Americans. They claimed that the Redskins should have their federal trademark protection taken away from them based on a statute that reportedly prohibits registered names that are contemptuous, disparaging, disreputable or scandalous. It went before the board last March.
One of the plaintiffs from last year’s hearing, Suzan Shown Harjo, told the press she was “thrilled and delighted” with this new decision. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: “Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it’s just a matter of time until he is forced to do the right thing and change the name.”
Reid had also stated prior to the decision that he would not attend home games as long as the team retained the name Redskins. He had no comment on Redskins supporters concerns that Reid and other politicians should be focused on the country’s “real problems”. The Redskins plan on releasing a statement “later in the day.”