Redskins trademark is revoked, but what does that mean?


(Toni L. Sandys / Washington Post)

Reaction to news that the Washington Redskins’ federal trademark registration has been canceled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it is “disparaging to Native Americans” raised a number of questions for the NFL team.

What happens next?

The team is likely to seek a stay of the decision and, as they did in the 1990s, they are likely to appeal the decision in court.

In 1992, Suzan Harjo and a group of Native Americans successfully petitioned the patent office to cancel six trademark registrations and the Redskins appealed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. It overturned the ruling, finding a lack of substantial evidence of disparagement and saying the petition was barred by laches, a legal theory that prohibits a part from waiting a long time to file a claim. The Redskins had registered their trademarks decades before the claim.

In November 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins’ trademark. Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that "may disparage" individuals or groups. Here's a look at the Redskins' logo and team imagery throughout the years. (Tom LeGro and Natalie Jennings/The Washington Post)

What’s different now? It’s difficult to imagine litigation lasting so long, even given the glacial pace of lawsuits, when societal change comes so quickly. Last week, during the NBA Finals, an ad questioning the nickname appeared in seven markets.

The California-based Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation aired this ad during the recent NBA Finals urging the Washington Redskins to change the team's name. (Video courtesy of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation)

As USA Today wrote last month, “If the team were applying for federal trademark protection for its “Redskins” name today, it would almost certainly be denied: At least 12 times since 1992 the USPTO has refused to register such marks on disparagement grounds, including seven applications from the Washington team (for terms such as “Redskins Fanatics” and “Redskins Rooters”) and one from NFL Properties (for “Boston Redskins”).”

As the dominoes fall on the Redskins and their trademark, what could this ruling mean for other teams?

More on the Redskins trademarks:

U.S. Patent Office revokes the Redskins’ trademarks, says name is disparaging

Here are the movie clips used in Redskins trademarks case

Meet the woman at the center of the trademarks case

Lawmakers react to the trademarks ruling

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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