NFL's Redskins' trademarks voided, board says name is a slur

Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:00pm EDT
 
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. government tribunal canceled trademarks of the NFL's Washington Redskins on Wednesday because they disparage Native Americans, setting the stage for a court battle with the team's owner.

The 2-1 decision by a Patent and Trademark Office administrative tribunal heightens pressure on the Washington club to change its name following decades of criticism by Native Americans and others who say it is a slur.

The franchise said it would appeal the ruling in the case, in which five Native Americans had sought to overturn six Redskins' trademarks.

The Patent Office tribunal found that at least 30 percent of Native Americans found the name "Redskins" disparaging from 1967 to 1990, when the trademarks were registered.

"Petitioners have shown by a preponderance of the evidence that a substantial composite of Native Americans found the term REDSKINS to be disparaging in connection with respondent’s services during the relevant time frame," the decision said.

The ruling does not mean that the trademarks can no longer be used by the National Football League club, only that they are no longer registered. The trademark protection remains until appeals are completed.

The decision strips the franchise of legal presumption of ownership and the ability to use the federal trademark symbol and block importation of counterfeit Redskins goods.

Bob Raskopf, a trademark attorney for the Redskins, said the club would appeal the ruling to federal court. He said the case was the same as one in which the tribunal canceled the Redskins' trademarks in 1999.   Continued...

 
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III scrambles against the Philadelphia Eagles' defense during the second half of their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland  in this file photo from September 9, 2013.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron/Files