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18 June 2014Trademarks

Washington Redskins’ trademarks cancelled

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has revoked six controversial trademarks belonging to a professional American football team after ruling that they are disparaging and offensive.

The USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) cancelled the trademark registrations, owned by the Washington Redskins NFL team, today, June 18.

The TTAB was considering whether the team should be able to keep its trademarks following a lawsuit brought against it by a group of Native Americans.

‘Redskin’ is an offensive and slang term for a Native American.

The trademarks were all variations of that word, including ‘The Redskins’ and ‘Washington Redskins’.

The club has indicated it will appeal against the decision.

However, without trademark protection, other parties could potentially use the name commercially without facing a trademark infringement lawsuit.

Under US law, whether a trademark should be considered offensive or inappropriate must be based on the meaning of the word at the time of its registration.

Despite the trademarks being granted between 1967 and 1990, the TTAB said the term ‘Redskin’ was still disparaging to a “substantial” portion of Native Americans.

“Beginning in 1966 and continuing to 1990, usage labels in dictionaries indicating the term ‘Redskin’ to be offensive, disparaging, contemptuous or not preferred, first appear and then grow in number,” the TTAB’s opinion said.

In the months building up to the decision, the USPTO rejected two registrations that contained the word ‘Redskin’, one for ‘ Redskin Hog Rinds’ and one for ‘ Washington Redskins Potatoes”.

Despite the criticism of its trademark, the team has remained adamant that it should not be forced to change its name.

In a letter to supporters last year, owner Daniel Snyder wrote: “The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honour".

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More on this story

19 June 2014   Attorneys have offered differing views on what the cancellation of six trademarks owned by the Washington Redskins means for the NFL team.
15 August 2014   National Football League team the Washington Redskins has filed an appeal against the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (TTAB’s) split decision to cancel the side’s trademarks, it said yesterday (August 14).
9 July 2015   The Washington Redskins has been dealt a blow by a US district court after it reaffirmed a decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel six of the club’s trademark registrations on grounds that they “may disparage” Native Americans.