PTO Rejects Bid for Redskins Trademark: Victory for Native Americans
I’ve been watching this for a long time. If you’ve been asleep for the past few years, there has been a lot of fodder over the name of the Washington Redskins. Some people, in fact, won’t even utter the name, preferring to address the sports franchise as The Washington Football Team instead. This has been a long-standing debate, and it’s one that I believe will linger for a long, long time to come. Before now, I hadn’t thought much about it; however, I do appreciate how the team’s name is considered offensive by Native Americans, in spite of the fact that some Native Americans have voiced their approval with the current team name. I am taking a 360 degree turn-around from my past opinion by saying that I agree that the team name ought to be changed. Enlightenment is such a wonderful thing.
Now, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has taken a bold stance, canceling a bid for a Washington Redskins Trademark. A group of Native Americans petitioned the PTO to block the trademark during the public comment period. You can read more in the article, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Cancels Redskins Trademark. If you don’t know it yet, that’s huge. I’m talking huger than huge, as a driving force in this issue. HUGE I tell you. Why is it huge? Because without trademark protections, the team will lose millions of dollars it gets every year from product sales, products such as jerseys, hats and caps, footballs, and dozens of other items with the Washington Redskins name and logo affixed to them. In the PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s hearing Decision, it wrote, “We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.”
There is an appeals process, so the name will retain trademark protection while the matter is still pending. But if after all appeals are exhausted and the decision stands, that certainly will carry a lot of weight in forcing the hand to make team owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name. Obviously it doesn’t mean that he will be legally mandated to change the name, but if he’s as smart a business man as he’s proven to be up till now, he will choose to change it. Otherwise, copycat product brands with the team’s name will be legally sold at a fraction of the costs of the legitimate/authorized products. It’s a wait-and-see game for now.