Redskins lawyer explains what will happen next with trademark case


(Nick Wass / AP)

 

Redskins trademark attorney Bob Raskopf put out a statement about this week’s trademark decision on Wednesday; Thursday, he took to the airwaves to further explain the team’s view of the decision, and of what happens next.

Because there seems to be much interest in the “what happens next” portion of this issue, here are highlights from Raskopf’s appearance on ESPN 980. The questions are paraphrased, and the order has been rearranged for clarity.

What does the decision mean in the short term?

Raskopf: “Our registration is still valid, was not canceled, would not be canceled until such time as the case was over. Last time, it was 11 years from the date of the trademark decision that the case finally ended in favor of the Washington Redskins, and we anticipate that the same will occur here, hopefully on a more accelerated timetable.”

How long will it take?

Raskopf: “We’ve got 60 days to file a petition; I don’t think it’s going to take that long. We’re in the Eastern District of Virginia, which has a federal court run by a federal trial judge. They’re known for processing cases quickly, so I think that we will have a decision on a much quicker track than last time. It’s not gonna take 11 years, that’s for sure, and hopefully much much less than that….Between one and five [years] I’d say, and hopefully on the shorter end of that, because as I mentioned, the trial court is known for speedy resolutions.

What happens next?

Raskopf: “You still have to file your petition, your adversary gets a period of time to file their response, there’s the opportunity to put in additional evidence, there could be discovery. There’s a lot of unknowns as you move forward. So that’s why the public would like a resolution maybe a little more quickly than the lawyers and the courts can deliver. But believe me, we’re gonna be working hard to get this thing resolved as quickly as possible. After you get to the trial court and you have your hearing — last time we won on summary judgment, we didn’t need to go to trial, hopefully that will happen again. Then there will be an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit presumably, and then the Court of Appeals takes over, and that process is again several months to a year or a year and a half by the time it’s argued. And then the Fourth Circuit must consider thinking about it and coming up with a consensus and writing an opinion. These things take time.”

Would the Redskins be damaged if they lose the federal registrations?

Raskopf: “We’ve looked at that. We think there would be additional costs, for sure, if we lost the registrations. Enforcement issues would become difficult, just because more people would come out of the woodwork to challenge you, perhaps not recognizing how strong our common law rights are. We have our registrations, but then we also have our common law rights. We have one of the most valuable brands in sports, so there’s enormous underlying value.”

Would that loss cost the team a lot of money?

Raskopf: “Yes sir. Sorry I didn’t give you a good sound bite on that one.”

Does the team believe this case will end any differently than the previous one, which the team won?

Raskopf: “No. In fact, I see that we’ve turned one of the three [trademark judges] this time. So if anything, the trend has been moving in our way. Everything depends on the judge, but now we’re talking about a federal judge who understands the rules of evidence, is familiar with how trials work, can parse through good testimony and bad and make rulings, more in the manner of a courtroom as opposed to a classroom. So we’re very much looking forward to having a fresh set of eyes in the form of a federal judge take a look at this.”

If the Redskins win this case, would the trademark issue be completely settled?

Raskopf: “We sure think this should put an end to it and will put an end to it. It’s been far too long as we’re concerned, anyway.”

Update: Later, Raskopf appeared with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. He answered many of the same questions, but was also asked whether he would refer to a Native American as a Redskin.

“That’s not what this case is about. It’s what OUR word means,” he said. “It’s how you use it, it’s not whether you use it. You need to put the word in context. Once you get the context, this case falls apart in two seconds for them. And that’s where we’re standing. We’re standing on that ground….It may or may not be used disparagingly, just like many other terms can. So we don’t really think there’s much to that claim…..We, the Washington Redskins, have made something honorable and successful and imbued that into this brand. There’s no way that anybody can say we use that mark disparagingly. It’s a mark. That’s what trademark law’s all about.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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