The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a ruling denying a trademark application for the phrase “Washington Redskin Potatoes,” in part because it was deemed to be disparaging of Native Americans.
“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols,” reads the trademark agency’s decision, which was handed down March 17th.
In that decision, the patent and trademark office rejected the name citing several dictionary definitions of “Redskin” that classify it as a slur against Native Americans.
Groups like the National Congress of American Indians who believe that the Washington Redskins football team name is racist and offensive were also used to justify the rejection, the twelfth such decision on applications bearing the word since 1992.
“This evidence reflects that, at this time, a substantial composite of Native American Indians find the current use of “REDSKINS” in conjunction with football disparaging,” the ruling states. “Thus, applicant’s use in this context also would be considered disparaging.”
The campaign against the term “Redskin” has heated up recently. Indian groups have long decried its use by the NFL’s Washington Redskins. A group led by the Oneida Indian Nation called Change the Mascot formed recently to denounce the team’s use of what it calls “the R-word”.
Mascots in other sports like Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians have been criticized as well.
Last year, dozens of news organizations and journalists announced that they would no longer refer to the Washington Redskins by their name. The online news magazine Slate, for example, said it would opt instead for “Washington’s NFL team”.
Ray Halbritter, who heads the Oneida Indian Nation which started the Change the Mascot push, celebrated the denial of “Washington Redskin Potatoes” application.
“Once again, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is making clear what should be obvious to everyone with a conscience – that ‘Redskins’ is not a term which anyone with common decency would use to address a Native American,” said Halbritter in a statement.
“Despite the team’s claim that the mascot is a term of honor, the reality is that it is a dictionary-defined slur that insults and denigrates Native Americans. The R-word has no place in modern society.” (RELATED: Documents: Anti-Redskins activist not a member of his tribe)
The trademark for “Washington Redskins” is currently under review by the patent and trademark office, and a decision is expected soon. The team will not have to change its name if it loses trademark protection, but other merchandisers will be allowed to use the name on their products.
The denial of “Washington Redskin Potatoes”, which was submitted by Reston, Virgina plastic surgeon George Weston, marks the second such denial of a product deemed offensive to American Indians this year. In January, the agency denied a trademark to “Redskins Hog Rinds.” (RELATED: Redskins clothing could be banned at DC public high school)
Weston planned to use the name for “presentations of professional football contests” and on other items such as trading cards, posters, and clothing items.
Besides deeming “Redskin” derogatory, the agency rejected the application because it created what it called a false connection between the name and the NFL’s Washington Redskins football team and also because it increased the likelihood of confusion.
Weston did not immediately return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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