The Washington Redskins filed a motion late Friday defending their lawsuit in federal court against a group of Native Americans over the team’s trademark protections.
The motion argues that the Redskins chose the right courthouse to file their lawsuit and the correct set of plaintiffs to sue in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., possibly the team’s last legal recourse to salvage its federal trademark protections.
The Redskins’ filing is a response to a motion to dismiss the case made last month by the five Native Americans who won a decision by the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The board found in June that the team’s name and logos are disparaging to American Indians and scheduled the Redskins’ trademark protections to be stripped. Since that decision, the Redskins have been able to keep the trademarks while the team makes its appeal.
In an effort to reverse the trademark board’s decision, the Redskins filed a lawsuit against the Native Americans. But last month, the defendants, led by Amanda Blackhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation, argued in their motion to dismiss that the Redskins do not have the legal right to sue them because they are not “parties in interest” who can be targeted in a trademark case based on federal law. Blackhorse asserted that she and her fellow Native Americans have no legal or economic interest in the Redskins trademark as a rival or new business might. The team, she argued, should have sued the Patent and Trademark Office.
Blackhorse also argued that the Redskins filed their lawsuit in a courthouse that does not have the proper jurisdiction to hear the case. The team should have filed its case against the patent office in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, they argued.
The Redskins disputed those arguments in Friday night’s motion. The team said the Native Americans are valid “parties in interest” who can be sued in its appeal of the trademark decision. The Native Americans, the team said, are “indispensable parties.” If it were not for them, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board would not have declared that the team’s trademark protections should be canceled.
“Absent their presence, no party with standing would remain before the [Trademark Trial and Appeal Board] and this Court would be required to vacate the Order and dismiss the petition,” the team said its in motion.
Daniel Snyder, the team’s owner, has promised never to change the name and asserts that it honors Native Americans. But the National Football League has recently come under heightened pressure over the Redskins name. A group of Democratic lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would end the NFL’s nonprofit status if the league continues supporting the name.