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Patent office cancels trademarks for Washington football team

Filed Under: Law | National | Sports
More on: amanda blackhorse, mascots, nfl, racism, redskins, suzan shown harjo, trademarks

The logo for the Change the Mascot campaign

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the trademarks belonging to the Washington NFL team due to their "disparaging" nature.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued its long-awaited ruling on a petition filed by a group of young Native activists. They successfully argued that the team's six trademarks are offensive to Native people.

"The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board -- an independent administrative tribunal within the USPTO -- has determined, based on the evidentiary record in the proceeding before it and on applicable law, that the petitioners met their burden to establish that the term 'Redskins' was disparaging of Native Americans, when used in relation to professional football services, at the times the various registrations involved in the cancellation proceeding were issued," the office said today. "Thus, the federal registrations for the “Redskins” trademarks involved in this proceeding must be canceled."

The decision doesn't mean the team has to stop using its racist mascot. It only affects the federal registration of the trademarks

The decision can be appealed to the federal courts. The team previously won a ruling that said Suzan Shown Harjo and other Native activists waited too long to bring their challenge.

In 1999, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board also determined the trademarks were disparaging.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, left the door open for a new challenge from people who weren't alive when the trademarks were first registered in 1967. The petitioners in Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc. represent a new generation of Native activists who oppose the continued use of a racial slur in professional sports.

Get the Story:
U.S. Patent office cancels Redskins trademark registration, says name is disparaging (The Washington Post 6/18)
In Landmark Decision, U.S. Patent Office Cancels Trademark For Redskins Football Team (The New York Times 6/18)
Reid rejects Redskins invite, presses for change (AP 6/16)

Related Stories:
Church group approves boycott against Washington NFL team (6/16)
Former Washington player calls for team to drop racist name (6/13)
Musician urges team name change as NCAI video makes waves (6/11)
Opinion: Lobbying firm hired to defend NFL team's racist mascot (6/11)
NCAI's 'Proud to Be' video to air during NBA finals game tonight (6/10)
Churches headed for vote on boycott of Washington NFL team (06/04)

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