From pork rinds to cheerleaders, the trademark office rejects the word ‘Redskins’

Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, Mike Wang, and Zorayda Moreira-Smith, protest the name of the Washington Redskins, in the shadow of FedEx Field, along with leaders from the African-American, Latino and Native-American communities on Nov. 25, 2013, in Landover, Md. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)
Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, Mike Wang, and Zorayda Moreira-Smith, protest the name of the Washington Redskins, in the shadow of FedEx Field, along with leaders from the African-American, Latino and Native-American communities on Nov. 25, 2013, in Landover, Md. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

It’s not only pork rinds that have felt the crunch of the Redskins’s name controversy.

A recent examination by the law firm fighting the NFL team’s registered trademark status has found that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has refused to register trademarks containing the word “Redskins” at least 11 times since 1992. Each time, it was on the grounds that the term may disparage Native Americans.

Here’s a list of some of the trademarks rejected: Redskin Review, Redskins Fanatics, Redskin Pigskins, Redskin Rooters, Washington Redskins Cheerleaders and Washington Redskins 70th Anniversary Est. 1932 Limited Edition.

Seven of the trademarks rejected were filed by Pro-football, Inc., the corporation run by team owner Daniel Snyder. Others, such as the “Redskins Hog Rinds,” bear the names of non-football affiliated companies.

The Capitol Heights man who filed the pork rinds application received a letter last month that read, “Registration is refused because the applied-for mark REDSKINS HOG RINDS consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”

The same federal agency that sent the letter is expected to make a decision at any time on whether the NFL team gets to keep its registered trademark. A spokesman for the Patent and Trademark Office has said the agency does not comment on pending applications and that each case is decided on its own merits.

Two lawsuits, handled by the firm Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP on behalf of Native Americans, have challenged the team’s use of the word. A lawsuit, launched by Suzan Harjo and seven other Native Americans in 1992, was thrown out on a technicality in 2009. A separate lawsuit filed by five Native Americans, including Amanda Blackhorse, is awaiting a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

If the board rules against the Washington Redskins, the team wouldn’t be forced to change its name but would lose its registered trademark status, which helps protect it from individuals looking to sell merchandise with the moniker on it.

Theresa Vargas is a reporter for the Post’s local enterprise team.
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