Thanks to reader Marcus Ranum, I learned that the Washington football team has lost trademark protection for the name ‘Redskins’ because the term is disparaging to American Indians. The decision was handed down by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Suzan Shown Harjo was lead petitioner in the original trademark case, which began in 1992. The TTAB canceled the team’s trademarks in 1999, just as it did today, but the team won Harjo v. Pro Football Inc. on appeal in 2003 in part because the district court ruled that the plaintiffs had waited too long to file their suit.
Harjo organized a second suit, with younger plaintiffs, including lead petitioner Amanda Blackhorse, in 2006. The original case did not end until the Supreme Court declined to hear it in 2009. Blackhorse v. Pro Football Inc. went active at that point and a 90-minute hearing was heard before the trademark board on March 7, 2013. The board took more than a year to come to today’s ruling.
This decision will be appealed of course and the team can continue to have trademark protections until the appeal is heard. And even if this decision is upheld on appeal, they can continue to use the name.
But we all know that the NFL and its team owners, and Dan Snyder is no exception, are greedy beyond measure, and they get a lot of revenue from merchandising team names on all manner of products. Losing trademark protection means that anyone can produce jerseys, mugs, and the like without restriction and losing money like that will make him cry.