BLT: Supreme Court asked to take on Redskins
"The long-running dispute over the appropriateness of the "Redskins" name for the Washington D.C. NFL football franchise reached the Supreme Court today. Philip Mause, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath in D.C., representing a group of Native Americans offended by the name, filed a petition for certiorari in the case titled Susan Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc.

"This is a derogatory term for Indians that sticks out like an anomaly," said Mause today. "No other group still has to deal with this kind of a term being used" in such a public and widespread way.

The case began with a petition in 1992 to cancel the Redskins trademark under the Lanham Act, which bars trademarks that "disparage ... persons living or dead ... or bring them into contempt, or disrepute." The latest ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the claims were barred by the doctrine of laches, a defense that acts like a statute of limitations to protect defendants from being sued for long-ago violations of rights.

But Mause asserted that the doctrine does not apply, because the law explicitly allows cancellations of trademarks "at any time." He cites a 2001 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Marshak v. Treadwell, in which now-Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said trademark cancellation claims are not time-barred. "We hope that ruling will be of some help," said Mause."

Get the Story:
Challenge to Redskins Name Reaches Supreme Court (Blog of Legal Times 9/14)

D.C. Circuit Decision:
Pro-Football v. Harjo (May 15, 2009)

Related Stories:
Opinion: A shameful day in America with 'Redskins' (05/20)
Court sides with 'Redskins' in trademark dispute (5/18)