Culture and Trademarks: A Closer Look at the Washington Redskins

Originally posted 2018-11-19 10:38:53

By Chloe Coska |
rsIn the light of the recent scandal opposing the Washington Redskins against a group of Five Native Americans, it is important to understand the stakes in terms of Trademark Law.

Last June, a group of five Native Americans successfully challenge the Washington Redskins trademark as disparaging in Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc.. The Washington redskins six trademark registrations,  including the term “redskins” have been cancelled by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the US Patent and Trademark office (USPTO).

The USPTO ruled that the trademark registration was contrary to the provisions of section Section 2(a) of the statute (15 U.S.C. 1052(a)), which prohibits registration of any mark that may disparage people may bring them into contempt or disrepute.

However, the Washington Redskins appealed the decision before the US District Court, in Alexandria asking to overturn the decision. The plaintiffs have filed a motion to dismiss, on Monday September 22nd, in US District court arguing that the football team has no right to sue after the USPTO’s (TTAB) decision.

What is important to understand is that even if the term “redskins” is cancelled that does not mean that the Washington professional football team will not be able to use it. The United States follows the “first to use” approach and the registration is just an extra step to protect the mark.

For now, the six trademark registrations are not cancelled until all judicial review have been completed. We will see if the Washington Redskins football team will be able to preserve their registration.


Resources :

Image credits: