The myth of big government in the Redskins trademark case

First, let’s clearly describe the Patent Office’s actions in this case. The Patent Office did not fine the Redskins. It did not arrest or jail anyone associated with the Redskins. It didn’t even tell the team that the name must be changed.

Instead, the Patent Office declared its future intention to literally do nothing. It decided that, because there are racially derogatory slurs involved in this trademark claim, the government is going to sit on its hands and stay out of the matter altogether. In short, the Patent Office has abdicated its role in regulating use of this name, instead opting for a small-government, hands-off, libertarian stance on the question of who can use “Redskins.”

Now, anyone may use the word however they’d like, including the Washington Redskins organization. The football team can still do whatever it wants with the word, as always. Nothing changes for them. It’s just that now everyone else can do whatever they want with it as well. The team’s liberty with respect to the word is unchanged. Everyone else’s liberty with respect to the word is expanded.