Archived: U.S. Patent Office Calls Redskins Name 'Disparaging,' Cancels Trademark Registration

By Julissa Catalan


The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released an official statement on Wednesday regarding the Trademark Trail and Appeal Board’s decision in the Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc. case.

According to the statement, “Petitioners met their burden to establish that the term ‘Redskins’ was ‘disparaging to Native Americans.'”

Though the NFL’s Washington Redskins gets to keep the name for the moment, the ruling does limit the team’s use of the name when it comes to merchandising and promotionfor example, apparel and memorabilia with the name.

The statement goes on to say: “The decision to cancel the registrations means that, if not appealed or not affirmed following a possible review by a federal court, the trademark owner (Pro Football, Inc.) will lose the legal benefits conferred by federal registration. These benefits include the legal presumptions of ownership and of nationwide scope of rights in these trademarks, as well as the ability to use the federal registration symbol, and to record the registrations with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Service to block importation of infringing or counterfeit foreign goods. The decision does not, however, require the trademarks in the involved registrations to be changed or no longer be used by Washington, D.C.’s pro football team.”

In 1999, American Indians won a similar case, but the NFL appealed and won in 2009.

This lawsuit was filed eight years ago by five American Indians: Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Phillip Glover, Jillian Pappan and Courtney Tsotigh.

“It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans,” Blackhorse said in a statement. “I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed.”

The call for the Redskins to be renamed has gained momentum over the last few years with the Oneida Indian Nation leading the fight.

Just last month, 50 U.S. senators signed a letter addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging the league to back the name-change campaign.

Team owner Dan Snyder has said he will never change the name.

Team officials are expected to comment on the ruling today, and it is anticipated that they will announce an appeal.

Click here to see the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board order.

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