NFL's Redskins urge judge to restore trademarks in slur fight

Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:41pm EDT
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By Lacey Johnson

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) - Lawyers for the NFL's Washington Redskins urged a U.S. federal judge on Tuesday to reinstate six trademark registrations that were canceled last year for being offensive to Native Americans.

A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal, in making its ruling, had said it found that at least 30 percent of Native Americans found the name "Redskins" disparaging from 1967 to 1990, when the trademarks were registered.

The Redskins appealed the ruling to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, filing suit last August against the five Native Americans who successfully convinced the administrative tribunal at the patent office to void the trademarks.

Judge Gerald Lee made no immediate ruling in the case.

The implications of losing the registered trademarks would be "severe and manifold" for the team, and the move also violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the National Football League team's trademark attorney, Bob Raskopf, said in court on Tuesday.

"It's one of the most valuable marks in sports," he said.

A canceled trademark would deprive the team of the ability to use the federal trademark symbol or to defend its right to sell merchandise bearing the mark. The trademark protection will remain in place until the appeals process is completed.

An attorney representing the five Native Americans said their goal was to stop the usage of the term "Redskins."   Continued...

Oct 12, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Native American indians protest the Washington Redskins name prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports