Patent office rejects Washington Redskins’ trademark registration

Responding to a complaint by Native Americans, the office nixed the NFL team’s name as ‘disparaging.’ The franchise vows to appeal.

For years, the Washington Redskins’ team name has stirred up controversy of the sort no brand wants, with Native American groups calling it racist and offensive.

Today, critics who have demanded that the NFL team jettison the name have won a crucial battle. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark registration, calling it “disparaging to Native Americans.”

“This victory was a long time coming,” lead attorney Jesse Witten of Drinker Biddle & Reath told The Washington Post. The paper explains the decision:

Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The ruling pertains to six different trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word “Redskin.”

Despite the 2-1 ruling, team retains the name during an appeal, ESPN reports. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change the team’s name, controversy or no, and the franchise plans to appeal.

The organization tweeted a statement from its lawyer, trademark attorney Bob Raskopf:

In the wake of the decision, Twitter, sports radio, and other media erupted, with some cheering it as long overdue and others decrying it as politically correct overreach.

Travis Waldron, a sports reporter at ThinkProgress, noted that financial pressure could push the team to drop its resistance.

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid called out Snyder by name said it was time for the team to end its fight on behalf of the name.

“This is extremely important to Native Americans all over the country that [the team] no longer use this name,” said Reid, a Democrat from Nevada. “It’s racist.”

A District of Columbia CBS affiliate polled fans on how long it will be until the Washington Redskins change their name. Options ranged from “less than 1 year” to “They’ll never change the name.”

Dozens of wags suggested that the team keep the name but change the logo image to a redskin potato. The patent office, however, has already rejected that idea: This year it nixed a product called “Washington Redskin Potatoes.”

It has rejected trademarks containing the word “Redskins” at least 11 times since 1992, The Post has reported. Among the names rejected were a product called Redskins Hog Rinds, along with Redskin Pigskins, Redskin Rooters, and Washington Redskins Cheerleaders.

‏@Miasportsmensch wondered whether animal rights activists will next go after the Miami Dolphins name.

Chantel McCabe, a pre-game show host and reporter for the Carolina Hurricanes, posted a link explaining how the Chicago Blackhawks got their name.

Native American groups have recently stepped up pressure about the Redskins name. The National Congress of American Indians aired an ad protesting the name during Tuesday’s NBA Finals.

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