U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board cancels Redskins trademark

posted at 12:01 pm on June 18, 2014 by Allahpundit

The quickest way to catch you up on the procedural history here is to have you read this post from January, when the USPTO denied a trademark to a company that wanted to call its snack food “Redskins Hog Rind.” The NFL’s ‘Skins have actually had their mark canceled on “disparagement” grounds once before, in 1999, but that decision ended up being overturned in federal court on a procedural technicality. A group of Native Americans decided to have a second go at a suit a few years ago, and now here we are.

They had to show not only that the team’s name is disparaging, but that it was disparaging at the time the trademark was granted. Held: Bye bye, “Redskins.”

r1r2

The team’s intent in using the name doesn’t matter. It’s what a “substantial composite” of the group implicated by the mark perceives. Follow the last link and scroll down to page 81 for the dissent, which argues that the historical evidence is simply too equivocal to find that “Redskins” was disparaging when the mark was first granted. (Arguably true!) The ruling doesn’t mean the team can’t use the name, just that they can’t stop unlicensed manufacturers from using the name on their own merchandise. Soon you’ll be able to sell your very own ‘Skins gear if you like, and Dan Snyder will lose tens or even hundreds of millions of bucks in the process. But not just yet: An appeal will follow, as it did in 1999, which means the trademark will remain in effect for years to come while the litigation plays out. Assuming, of course, Snyder doesn’t drop “Redskins” first.

“Disparagement” is interesting grounds for canceling a mark. After all, in theory, the market should be able to handle the problem. If Snyder changed the team’s name to, say, the “Washington Blackskins,” the economic backlash would be sufficiently swift and stern that you wouldn’t need the USPTO to convince him to change his mind. Empowering the agency to cancel a mark is sort of the intellectual property equivalent of civil rights legislation: It lets the government step in and sanction a business on behalf of people who may not have enough political or economic clout to force the change otherwise. Is that true of Native Americans, though, given the number of Senate Democrats who are now invested in this issue? Is it also true that the term “Redskins” brings Native Americans “into contempt or disrepute”? The weird thing about “Redskins” is that it’s so closely associated with football and the team in the public’s mind, I think, that over time the sports meaning has completely overtaken the racially derogatory meaning. If someone walked up to you today and said “What do you think of the Redskins?”, you’d assume without a second thought that he was asking you about the NFC East, not casually slurring Native Americans. Hard to argue that the word’s “disparaging” in that context. On the other hand, if you let the mark stand for that reason, then theoretically “Washington Blackskins” would and should also stand as long as it’s been in use for a long enough time that the underlying racial meaning has basically melted away. The USPTO wouldn’t go for that, so “Redskins” has to fall. Not because it’s actually disparaging but for reasons of simple consistency.

Exit question: How about “Washington Parasites”? “Washington Cronies”? If we’re going to use disparaging names in connection with the D.C. area, let’s really do it, you know?


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Bmore..:)

Dire Straits on June 18, 2014 at 8:51 PM

We the public are probably the johnny come lately to this news.

Was it not just last week that a not so presidential looking Obama visited an Indian Reservation?

He has a phone… and they called back.

In general; a Narcissist backed into a corner with no way to save itself is extremely dangerous. When they feel threaten they punish without concern of consequences of their action. The greater the threat of failure, the greater the punishment they will enact.

Maybe someone said something that got him to agreeing with the need for a name change. Maybe the team somehow ticked him off. Maybe he sees some votes in it or praise for himself. For whatever reason Obama decided to make the Redskins change their name. He pushed for it, told them to do it, and the Washington Red Skins denied him, publicly, pointing out that he could not make him change their name.

Now they have his punishment.

Franklyn on June 18, 2014 at 8:55 PM

Washington Bureaucats. Symbol of entropy on the helmet.

catsmeow on June 18, 2014 at 8:59 PM

The people we used to call “Indians” should more properly be referred to as “Siberian immigrants”, or you may prefer “Siberian-Americans”.

slickwillie2001 on June 18, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Native Russians?

BobMbx on June 18, 2014 at 9:05 PM

Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me…

Not anymmore… now we need the government to protect us from trigger words and not much longer now, incorrect thoughts.

We are no longer a free people.

Skywise on June 18, 2014 at 9:07 PM

The Washington, Go F* Yourselves seems like an apt team name.

drewwerd on June 18, 2014 at 9:16 PM

does this mean we have to rename half the city/town names in Michigan… an Ohio.. and Wis.. and Minn.. and…name your state

the city of Pontiac is close to here…
named after Chief Pontiac and his tribe…
they have a Pontiac lake too.. and an island also..
the chief is buried on the island legend has it..
does GM even make Pontiacs anymore… //
how much renaming are we talking here..

this is stupid..

going2mars on June 18, 2014 at 9:53 PM

See this type of logic needs to end. I think it’s ridiculous to get offended by a sports team name, especially like mentioned above, one that’s been in place so that no one actually thinks of actual Indians when they hear that name. But the trademark only exists because of the federal government. So trademarks are very much under their jurisdiction. This is just the new “Get the government out of my Medicare!” nonsense that makes it easier for people to mock conservatives. Complain about the liberal whining about a name, fine. Question how many people were actually offended other than that the usual being offended on someone else’s behalf, great. Suggest names to offend the people who brought this one, awesome. But please no more of this “Why is the federal patent office getting involved in federal trademark decisions!” silliness.

sandbun on June 18, 2014 at 2:59 PM

How long has this team had a trademark?
And now it’s an issue? After what, 75 years?
Give me a damn break. This is liberal pansy passive aggressive beta-male politics, pure and simple.

What does the federal government care what a football team is called? If it’s really so damned offensive, let the free market force them to change their name. Or please explain why it’s the government’s job to force the issue?

DRayRaven on June 18, 2014 at 10:01 PM

going2mars on June 18, 2014 at 9:53 PM

I remember when the hi-beam indicator on a Pontiac was a little Indian head, just like the Indian on the Redskins’ helmet.

slickwillie2001 on June 18, 2014 at 10:08 PM

The:

Washington Bailouts
Washington Hopenchange
Washington Pajamaboys
Washinton ClimateChange (scary!–their logo can be a hurricane rotating the wrong way. Unless Gore already trademarked that.)

I think I would be sorely tempted, were I the owner, to announce that I had decided upon a name change; that while my team had for 4 score years proudly embraced the character of a brave and noble people, it turns out that the character of that people had morphed into whiny victimhood, with which I no longer chose to be associated.

TexasDan on June 18, 2014 at 10:11 PM

Well, I wonder what would happen if they gave Native Americans the trademark right to use the name “Redskins” and they could charge the NFL to use it?

scalleywag on June 18, 2014 at 10:28 PM

slickwillie2001 on June 18, 2014 at 10:08 PM

when I was young the dealerships had 30 foot tall neon red Indians..
in front of each dealership…..

let me ask you this..
is a handful of ‘brokeback’ cowboys have a problem with Dallas Cowboys..
would they change that name??.. I can see Jerry doing that…yeah

the group of toga wearing Romans up in arms over the USC Trojans??

going2mars on June 18, 2014 at 10:30 PM

if PETA sticks up for the Lions, Tigers and Bears
this will be a real mess…

going2mars on June 18, 2014 at 10:31 PM

my grandmother was half Irish..
can I picket the Fighting Irish because I feel slighted..
get with it Notre Dame.. my ppl were wronged…
were not always fighting…
sometimes we drink..!!

going2mars on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 PM

Go Browns.

Ronnie on June 18, 2014 at 10:43 PM

“Youse crackas bettah rename dah Cleve-a-land Browns or I’s gonna burn down dey soo-va-neer shop !!”

———– Revrum’ Al $harpton

viking01 on June 18, 2014 at 10:45 PM

Try to tell a mother she can’t name her child whatever she wants. But I guess it’s different out here in the real world.

Netclimber on June 18, 2014 at 10:47 PM

anyone who had anything to do with this …government wise..
should be fired.. today.. now..
stop wasting federal money on the name of a privately owned sports team..

you pathetic idiots..!!

going2mars on June 18, 2014 at 10:48 PM

going2mars on June 18, 2014 at 9:53 PM

The GTO (back in the day) was a fine piece of artwork..imho..:)

Dire Straits on June 18, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Then again, if I have a name that people find offensive, should I be forced to change it?

Netclimber on June 18, 2014 at 11:00 PM

I was born in upstate Illinois in 1954 to native born parents.
My tribal identity is Celtic and Germanic.
I am a native American.
I find it ‘disparaging’ and insulting that the term is not applied to my tribes.
I think I’ll sue to change the name to the Washington Micks or Krauts.
Then give us the casinos and reservation land.

poteen on June 18, 2014 at 11:01 PM

DRayRaven on June 18, 2014 at 10:01 PM

First, this has been an issue for many years, it’s been over two decades in getting to this point. Just because it’s only popped up on your radar recently doesn’t make it just now an issue. In fact the same board made the same decision in ’99, although it was overturned not based on that they had ruled incorrectly but that the plaintiffs in that case didn’t have standing. The plaintiffs fixed that issue this time around by having it be younger people bringing the complaint. And again, the government isn’t forcing anyone to do anything. They’re just cancelling some legal protections based on the the fact that those protections are illegal according to the Lanham Act of ’46. You’re right that the federal government shouldn’t be concerned about a team name. But they should be concerned with following the law that says a disparaging name can’t be trademarked. And they didn’t force the issue, that was done by the plaintiffs. And they had a legal requirement to consider the plaintiffs case.

Again, I think this is all stupid and can’t imagine caring what a team is called. But getting basic facts wrong don’t help anyone.

sandbun on June 18, 2014 at 11:03 PM

Since polls are so popular these days, why don’t these people poll ALL American Indians to be sure where they stand on this issue? For all we know, these citizens may be offended by ‘rain dance’. (I’m part Cherokee and I find NO offense with this issue whatsoever.)

Netclimber on June 18, 2014 at 11:25 PM

I’m an eagles’ fan so I hate the redskins… But I support Snyder here.

My hope is that he changes the name to something with a double meaning which sticks it to the Left.

mankai on June 18, 2014 at 11:33 PM

Call them the Washington Snakeskins. Have an image of “Don’t Tread on Me” on the uniforms. Works on so many levels:

Washington politicians are snakes.
Their ‘solutions’ to problems are akin to snake oil.
“Don’t Tread on Me” lets them know to GTFO.

xNavigator on June 18, 2014 at 11:46 PM

I must be missing something here. As it currently stands, the Redskins have both the legal right and the financial reason to protect infringement of their trademark. That is, no taking the identifiable Indian profile and putting, say, horns and a clown nose oh him. If this ruling stands, I would think that the opportunities to do something truly offensive with the Washington Redskins logo and name would be great (how many non-Redskins fans are there across the nation?) and the Redskins could do nothing to stop it. Am I missing something, or is the unintended consequences of a “feel good” solution about to come into play?

Zusnn on June 18, 2014 at 11:49 PM

Oh, and I second the Washington snakeskins as a replacement name.

Zusnn on June 18, 2014 at 11:51 PM

How does this impact the potato farmers in Idaho that grow red skin potatoes? What about the Chicago Blackhawks? Florida State Seminoles? Tennessee Volunteers? I mean, c’mon, that’s offensive to just about everybody who feels that the Southern states should not have seceded from the Union and caused the Civil War. Let’s look at the Ole Miss Rebels while we’re at it. Can the northern states demand reparations from the southern states for causing the Civil War?

conservablogger on June 19, 2014 at 12:08 AM

Look, we’ve been over and over and over this:

The team plays home games in Landover, Maryland.
America chose land over people some called redskins.
Wallah! Voila!
Landover Redskins.

Truth in advertising, NFL edition.

Christien on June 19, 2014 at 2:06 AM

No one seems concerned about the over reaching of this government.

RdLake on June 19, 2014 at 3:11 AM

blink on June 18, 2014 at 7:05 PM

The Defense would be laughed out of court. Same effect as if someone tells you to get a shotgun and shoot through the door. A trademark is property of the creator of the mark. It has been and always will be as it is part of Common Law. The Federal Government may decide not to register the mark, but that is akin to a President following or not following a law. What will happen is that the Redskins will go to court and force the Government to register the trademark just like in 2003. If somebody is dumb enough to take Harry Reid’s advice, they will be sued to oblivion and lose

Brock Robamney on June 19, 2014 at 5:50 AM

I’m an eagles’ fan so I hate the redskins… But I support Snyder here.
My hope is that he changes the name to something with a double meaning which sticks it to the Left.
mankai on June 18, 2014 at 11:33 PM

The Washington Reidskins. One letter changed can stick it to the man

Brock Robamney on June 19, 2014 at 5:54 AM

Well, I wonder what would happen if they gave Native Americans the trademark right to use the name “Redskins” and they could charge the NFL to use it?
scalleywag on June 18, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Then I imagine that would fall under the takings clause of the 5th Amendment, which would require the Federal Government to provide just compensation

Brock Robamney on June 19, 2014 at 5:58 AM

First, this has been an issue for many years, it’s been over two decades in getting to this point. Just because it’s only popped up on your radar recently doesn’t make it just now an issue.

Listen, you condescending twerp, I’m aware a few Indians who oined the the left’s perpetual grievance industry have been griping about sports teams who make use of their heritage for decades.

I’m also aware a vast majority of the “offended” are not Native Americans at all – they’re left wing race baiters who seize on this as an issue to demonstrate value to their otherwise useless existence and passively aggressively go after football fans, the majority of whom are perceived as white males who like manly things – and who thus make the beta-males on the left look bad by comparison.

It’s only recently, with people like Obama and Reid in office that anyone took them seriously.

And again, the government isn’t forcing anyone to do anything. They’re just cancelling some legal protections based on the the fact that those protections are illegal according to the Lanham Act of ’46. You’re right that the federal government shouldn’t be concerned about a team name. But they should be concerned with following the law that says a disparaging name can’t be trademarked.

Disparaging according to a who? A vocal minority of the people supposedly being disparaged? A majority of big government nanny-staters and left-wing journalists?

And while it’s true that the government isn’t forcing Snyder to keep the name – but they are stripping him of his property rights and millions of dollars from merchandise sales if he doesn’t. But, yeah, you’re right…they aren’t FORCING him to do anything.

I doubt the government would like it if judges applied that same kind of logic to the RICO statutes.

Face it: removing this trademark is left-wing activism, not judicious use of the trademark power.

Again, I think this is all stupid and can’t imagine caring what a team is called. But getting basic facts wrong don’t help anyone.

sandbun on June 18, 2014 at 11:03 PM

I’m pretty sure I didn’t get basic facts wrong.
You can’t defend what the government did here as legitimate on one hand and claim it’s “stupid” and I have my basic facts wrong on the other. Basically, you’re defending what the government did here, but you’re too weak-kneed (being diplomatic here) to come right out and say you support it.

Yeah. If everyone on the right were like you when it comes to defending liberty, we wouldn’t need Democrats.

DRayRaven on June 19, 2014 at 6:07 AM

RedSkin

BoxHead1 on June 19, 2014 at 6:16 AM

Nope, it went through. HA hasn’t banned that one yet.

BoxHead1 on June 19, 2014 at 6:16 AM

He should rename and move the team.

Dr. Frank Enstine on June 19, 2014 at 6:46 AM

Washington Redsinks

C’mon Sneider, troll the nation.

TarasBulbous on June 19, 2014 at 7:32 AM

Right now there are some very well paid lawyers trolling the USPTO servers for every other potential trademark with a similar issue. My guess is they will not only find some, but they will either all need to be mass-revoked for the same reason or this ruling will fall as inconsistent.

There are a plethora of words which, using the 21st century politically correct definition will be deemed offensive.

By the way. Doesn’t this intrude on the First Amendment? That is, the government redefining words they once, admittedly, by approval of this trademark, deemed- non-offensive?

Marcus Traianus on June 19, 2014 at 8:04 AM

The determination of “disparaging” was supposed to be made BEFORE the mark was registered. They failed to unregister the mark in 1999 using the same arguments, now they are using voodoo science and probability to attempt to do the same thing again. Why? Because they want the outcome, not because that’s where the law requires them to go.

I juxtapose this with the IRS destroying hard drives to remove evidence, which if I recall correctly, is against the law since those are public records and are supposed to be kept on servers, not just hard drives. (It may also be spoliation of evidence depending on when it happened.)

Then I find myself asking, what ever happened with the rule of law. My only conclusion is that the anarchists have arrived and are in power. But if you’re not in their good favor they will attempt to de-legitimize you.

EdmundBurke247 on June 19, 2014 at 8:05 AM

1. 30% – a minority – is enough justification for the government to strip a legally obtained patent from a civilian / civilian-owned company? “There is nothing in the Trademark act that prohibits the trademarking of ‘disparaging’ terms…” You may not like it, but there is no legal basis to strip the Redskins of there Trademark. Political Correctness is not justification for a government to negate a citizen’s legal rights.

2. There are many ‘Rights’ afforded to Americans – the Right NOT to be offended is NOT one of them.

2.

easyt65 on June 19, 2014 at 8:21 AM

There are many ‘Rights’ afforded to Americans – the Right NOT to be offended is NOT one of them.

easyt65 on June 19, 2014 at 8:21 AM

This in-your-face assault on property rights signals an ugly 2+ more years of Obama. As Rush said yesterday, this is not the end of the Obama presidency. More like the beginning, as he’s just getting warmed up.

petefrt on June 19, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Does this mean I should start to feel guilty because I like to listen to Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys? Or I should petition him to change the band’s name whenever he goes out on the road?

Sheesh!

Grantman on June 19, 2014 at 10:13 AM

This issue may be the straw that breaks the back of the PC tyrants. God, I hope so. Hail To The Redskins!!!

fight like a girl on June 19, 2014 at 10:55 AM

BREAKING:

The US Department of Agriculture released an immediate order to halt all trade and commerce of redskin potatoes. AG Spox also said other food items are being evaluated, such as yellow and brown mustard, black-eyed peas, and certain apple varieties.

BobMbx on June 19, 2014 at 11:21 AM

These are current active trademarks with “redskin” registered as part of the name.

You can find them here.

WASHINGTON REDSKIN POTATOES
REDSKINS HOG RINDS
ROYAL OAK PEANUTS
FERIDIES
12TH REDSKIN
ALL NATURAL MY DADZ NUTZ CARMELIZED JUMBO REDSKINS http://WWW.MYDADZNUTZ.COM CRUNCHY! 10OZ (280G) BIG FRENCHY
WARRIORS
FIRST LADIES OF FOOTBALL
FIRST LADIES OF FOOTBALL
OWNER’S CLUB
WASHINGTON REDSKINS CHEERLEADERS
REDSKINS BROADCAST NETWORK
REDSKIN
BOSTON REDSKINS
WASHINGTON REDSKINS
REDSKINETTES
THE REDSKINS

BobMbx on June 19, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Ok, that link didn’t work. Try this:

Enter your search term and select “live” for active TMs.

BobMbx on June 19, 2014 at 11:31 AM

They should change the team name to the Washington Koch Bros as a big FU to nutso Reid.

Marxism is for dummies on June 19, 2014 at 11:33 AM

BREAKING:

Gen. Tso reportedly files suit.

BobMbx on June 19, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Just ordered my brand new Redskins hat. Complete with ‘Redskins’ sewn right on the back.

I live in the Denver area, but I can’t wait to proudly wear my Redskins hat everywhere I go.

I hope all the self-appointed PC police I run across choke on it.

Meople on June 19, 2014 at 12:49 PM

I hope no one tells Congress that Oklahoma comes from a Choctaw phrase literally meaning red people.

henzou on June 19, 2014 at 12:57 PM

http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2013/12/18/redskins_the_debate_over_the_washington_football_team_s_name_incorrectly.html

That link is to Slate (I know, I know…someone has to do it).

So basically, the natives referred to themselves as ‘red men’ in their native languages, and it was translated into English as redskin. It all turns out that native ‘Mericans are self haters too, like the Jooos and conservative blacks./sarc (shouldn’t have to, but there are a lot of newbies with the latest rounds of open registration).

Another question I can’t get answered by some reliably (il)liberal acquaintances: Why would a team decide on a nickname that they intend to be a disparagement? That is a marketing ploy that only a Soetoro could come up with. It defies logic that you want to name a club after something that you find objectionable.

H.E. Pennypacker on June 19, 2014 at 10:06 PM

Hey, and aren’t native Americans pretty much under-represented in the Redskins team? Do the owners have some thing against them that they repress them in this way?

Maybe, as reparations, the team should be given back to the natives it was stolen from?

Obviously, we are in the never-land of liberal self-righteous proxy fauxtrage. Suggest we just ignore their trollery.

virgo on June 20, 2014 at 11:26 PM

The Redskins should drop the word “Washington” from the team name…..
THAT is the real embarrassment…..

redguy on June 21, 2014 at 11:45 AM

With dingy Harry Reid in power, what could be more disparaging than Washington Senators!

russedav on June 21, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Washington Filibusters.
Washington Redtapes.

Bmore on July 1, 2014 at 9:57 AM

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