Redskins Patent Office decision cheered by lawmakers as ‘landmark’


Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative, speaks at a press conference after meeting with senior officials of the National Football League about changing the mascot name of the Washington Redskin. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images file photo)

Updated 11:02 a.m.

Lawmakers cheered a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the Washington Redskins trademark registration, saying the ruling should finally convince the National Football League to reverse its decision to stick with the name deemed offensive by Native Americans.

"The writing is on the wall. It’s on the wall in giant, blinking neon lights," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor shortly after the decision was announced.

Singling out the Redskins owner, Reid said "Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it's just a matter of time before he's forced to do the right thing and change the name."

Reid has publicly rebuked Snyder and his management team several times in the past year for the name, saying it is an offensive term. He has publicly backed Native American tribes in his state who have rejected overtures by Snyder to provide them with assistance. Last week Reid rejected an invitation from the team to attend a home game at FedEx Field, saying in a written reply that he wouldn't attend a game until the team "chooses to do the right thing and change its offensive name."

Reid in his remarks credited Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who has led efforts to force Redskins name change. This spring she convinced Reid and other Democratic senators to co-sign a letter asking the NFL to change the name because they consider it offensive to Native Americans. On Wednesday, shortly after the USPTO decision was announced, Cantwell interrupted debate on a spending bill on the Senate floor to cheer the decision, saying it puts "a big dent of the business case that the NFL has."

"This is not the end of this case, but this is a landmark decision by the patent office that says that the NFL team here in Washington, D.C. does not have a patentable name and that this an offensive term not patentable by the Patent Office," she added.

Despite Wednesday's decision, the ruling does not mean that the Redskins have to change the name of the team. It does affect whether the team and the NFL can make money from merchandising because it limits the team’s legal options when others use the logos and the name on T-shirts, sweatshirts, beer glasses and license plate holders.

The decision can also be appealed in federal court.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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