US Patent & Trademark Office cancels 6 trademarks connected to 'Washington Redskins'

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The US Patent & Trademark office has cancelled 6 trademarks in connection with the Washington Redskins. This just got a whole lot more interesting.

In fairly significant news, the US Patent & Trademark Office has cancelled six trademarks associated with the Washington Redskins. The team will be able to appeal the ruling, and during that appeals process, they will retain their exclusive use of the trademarks. If this holds up on appeal, what this means is that anybody can produce apparel with the Redskins mark on it. You or I could produce t-shirts, hats, foam fingers or anything else that has the team's marks on it, and the team could not sue us for infringing their intellectual property. It would take time, but that could potentially lead to serious financial losses.

Fooch's Update: Even if Snyder lost on appeal, this does not remove all legal protection. He could still look to state trademark laws for protection. He simply loses federal protection.

While I am certain Dan Snyder will appeal this ruling, this is far and away the most notable strike against the term Redskins. Momentum is not on Snyder's side at this point, and at some point the name will change. It may not be immediately, but it's going to happen. i imagine Roger Goodell and the NFL were hoping things could die down enough that Snyder could make the change without losing face, but that doesn't seem possible at this point. Although, I suppose Snyder could change it claiming legal pressure, and pretend he's avoiding some kind of embarrassment.

The PTO actually ruled similarly on the these trademarks back in the 90s, but the case was overturned on appeal due to a technicality. Some of the plaintiffs had waited too long after turning 18, so standing was an issue. The plaintiffs in the current case reportedly have corrected that issue, which means if decided on the merits on appeal, it should stand up.

You can read the entire ruling below, but the arguably the most important part of the conclusion starts near the top of page 70. The Board points to near complete drop off in usage of the term, and that approximately 30 percent of Native Americans found the term disparaging. Although not a majority, the Board stated that was a substantial composite. If a term is disparaging, it cannot be trademarked. Furthermore, the Board has also refused to trademark newer terms in connection with Washington Redskins. They could not just cancel the previous trademarks without someone filing with the Board, but we've now had that.

Redskins patent ruling

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