UPDATE: The Washington Redskins have responded, the Washington Post reports, expressing confidence that the ruling against their trademark will be overturned.
The team’s trademark attorney Bob Raskopf released a statement saying, “We’ve seen this story before. And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.”
Raskopf cited the 1999 denial of the Redskins trademarks being followed, a few years later, by the overturning of that decision:
We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s divided ruling will be overturned on appeal. This case is no different than an earlier case, where the Board cancelled the Redskins’ trademark registrations, and where a federal district court disagreed and reversed the Board.
As today’s dissenting opinion correctly states, ‘the same evidence previously found insufficient to support cancellation’ here ‘remains insufficient’ and does not support cancellation.
This ruling – which of course we will appeal – simply addresses the team’s federal trademark registrations, and the team will continue to own and be able to protect its marks without the registrations. The registrations will remain effective while the case is on appeal.
When the case first arose more than 20 years ago, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled on appeal in favor of the Washington Redskins and their trademark registrations.
As the district court’s ruling made clear in 2003, the evidence ‘is insufficient to conclude that during the relevant time periods the trademark at issue disparaged Native Americans…’ The court continued, ‘The Court concludes that the [Board’s] finding that the marks at issue ‘may disparage’ Native Americans is unsupported by substantial evidence, is logically flawed, and fails to apply the correct legal standard to its own findings of fact.’ Those aren’t my words. That was the court’s conclusion. We are confident that when a district court review’s today’s split decision, it will reach a similar conclusion.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday that the Washington Redskins nickname is “disparaging of Native Americans” and that the team’s federal trademarks for the name must be canceled.
The 2-1 ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year. The team doesn’t immediately lose trademark protection and is allowed to retain it during an appeal.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change the team’s name, citing tradition, but there has been growing pressure including statements in recent months from President Barack Obama, lawmakers of both parties and civil rights groups.
The decision means that the team can continue to use the Redskins name, but it would lose a significant portion of its ability to protect the financial interests connected to its use. If others printed the name on sweatshirts, apparel, or other team material, it becomes more difficult to go after groups who use it without permission.
The decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is similar to one it issued in 1999. That ruling was overturned in 2003 in large part on a technicality after the courts decided that the plaintiffs were too old and should have filed their complaint soon after the Redskins registered their nickname in 1967.
The new case was launched in 2006 by a younger group of Native Americans, and was heard by the board in March of last year.
The group argued that the Redskins should lose their federal trademark protection based on a law that prohibits registered names that are disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable. The case involves six registered trademarks that involve the use of the word Redskins, but it does not apply to the team’s logo.
Suzan Shown Harjo, one of the plaintiffs who testified at last year’s hearing, said she was “thrilled and delighted” with the decision. The Redskins did not immediately comment.
This story has been updated.