UnIntellectual Property (UnIP): Trademark for REDSKINS

The USPTO’s TTAB today issued its opinion cancelling the REDSKINS trademark as owned by Pro Football, Inc. and used in connection with the Washington Redskins NFL team.  The USPTO issued a statement that, in sum, says:

1. “Redskins” was disparaging of Native Americans, when used in relation to professional football services, at the times the

2. The federal registrations for the “Redskins” trademarks involved in this proceeding must be canceled.

3. If not appealed or not affirmed, the previous registrant loses the benefits associated with a federal trademark registration, including the legal presumptions of ownership and of nationwide scope of rights in these trademarks, as well as the ability to use the federal registration ® symbol, and to record the registrations with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Service to block importation of infringing or counterfeit foreign goods.

4. The decision does not require that the REDSKINS trademark be changed or no longer used by Washington D.C.’s NFL team, since the TTAB’s jurisdiction does extend to trademark use but rather only trademark registration with the USPTO.

You can read the precedential opinion.

Given the facts, this decision does not surprise me.  The timing of it, however, confirms to me the power of lobbying and social change efforts, as evidenced by the Native American commercial ran during, among other times, the NBA Finals.  As an alumni of Miami University, who used be called the Miami Redskins and has since changed to Miami Redhawks, I understand both sides views on the matter.  Ultimately, it will be interesting to see whether Washington D.C.’s football team actually stops use and rebrands.


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