US Patent Office Cancels ‘Redskins’ Trademark

Seth Richardson Contributor
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In a strange twist of events to the ongoing Redskins name saga, the Appeal Board for the U.S. Patent Office ruled to cancel the Washington Redskin’s trademark on the grounds that it is disparaging to Native Americans, according to Deadspin(Related: Redskins owner makes name-change announcement)

Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. was first filed in 2006 by a group of Native Americans looking to end the use of the name. The team has sought trademarks for the use of multiple products, in this case hog rinds. The decision retroactively cancels the trademark for the team. (Related: Watch The Anti-Redskins Ad That Will Play Tonight)

The full decision can be found here, but here are some highlights:

The recognition that this racial designation based on skin color is disparaging to Native Americans is also demonstrated by the near complete drop-off in usage of “redskins” as a reference to Native Americans beginning in the 1960’s.

The record establishes that, at a minimum, approximately thirty percent of Native Americans found the term REDSKINS used in connection with respondent’s services to be disparaging at all times including 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978 and 1990. Section 2(a) prohibits registration of matter that disparages a substantial composite, which need not be a majority, of the referenced group. Thirty percent is without doubt a substantial composite.

The ultimate decision is based on whether the evidence shows that a substantial composite of the Native American population found the term “Redskins” to be disparaging when the respective registrations issued. Therefore, once a substantial composite has been found, the mere existence of differing opinions cannot change the conclusion.

In a statement, the plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse said she was “extremely happy” with the ruling.

“I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed,” she said. “The team’s name is racist and derogatory. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – if people wouldn’t dare call a Native American a ‘redskin’ because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?” (Related: Redskins Circle The Wagons As Indians Launch Attack Ad During NBA Finals)

The ruling does not take effect immediately so that the team may file another appeal. But if the ruling holds up, any person may sell merchandise with the Redskins logo without paying rights to the team or NFL. This would likely usher in a new name for the team as the NFL would look to retain all profits from merchandising. (Related: Mike Tyson, Known For Great Ideas, Thinks Redskins Should Change Name)

In 2013, Bloomberg reported the Redskins as the third-most valuable team at $1.7 billion.

Seth Richardson