In what’s quickly become one of the biggest trademark lawsuits this year, Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal reports that a federal court in Virginia declined in late November to dismiss the Washington Redskins’ trademark lawsuit against the parties that had the football team’s protection stripped.
Amanda Blackhorse and four other parties led a campaign against the franchise’s protection under trademark law. Last June, their efforts against the football team’s corporate lawyers paid off. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled six uses of the word “Redskins,” which they’d had trademarked from 1967 to 1990, saying that it’s “disparaging of Native Americans.”
In August, the football team announced that they’d appeal the ruling, and a few months later in October, the team and their corporate law firm were allowed to sue Blackhorse and the other parties.
U.S. district court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee did not, however, rule whether the team’s name, “Redskins,” was a slur as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had, but he did write that the their symbols and names were valuable communicable tools through which the public identifies the team and the players.
Lee also noted that the team would definitely be injured by the loss of their trademarks, which the franchise is allowed to use until the end of its appeal.
Over the past year, more and more people have begun to support the trademark lawsuit against the football team, saying that the name is racist and offensive to Native Americans and should be changed.
The trademark lawsuit has garnered so much attention, in fact, that thousands of demonstrators joined a protest of the team at their game in Minneapolis on November 2. Protesters also gathered outside the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
So fervent is the public’s opposition to the team name that three NFL fans have even written a web extension called the “Redskins Web Skin,” which replaces any mention of the offending term on the web page being viewed with either “Citizens” or “Americans.”
Meanwhile, there’s a petition on Change.org hoping to push the team to change their name to the “Washington Athletes.”
However, it’s not up to the public to determine whether or not something is or isn’t against trademark law. That’s an issue left up to the trademark attorneys and the court, and will ultimately be decided there. More info like this.