Redskins Trademark Fumble
The LAW FIRM OF DAYREL SEWELL, PLLC is pleased to announce that Messrs. Sewell’s and Fine’s recent, featured publication, “The “Redskins” Trademark: Turn-over on Downs”, appears in this month’s IPFrontline newsletter (Trademark Turn-over on Downs).
For decades, the National Football League’s “REDSKINS” trademarks have been under siege. Activists, concerned citizens, Native American groups, lawyers, and politicians have boisterously levied meritorious arguments against a trademark that has defined an American professional football team for almost a century. While this coalition has attracted a great deal of societal attention, it has only recently secured judicial support.
For decades, the NFL has stood firmly behind its “Redskin” trademark, as has the majority of Redskins fans. The term “redskin” subsequently no longer enjoys widespread use in America as a word describing the Native American people. The case, Pro-Football Inc. v. Blackhorse, offers an extensive analysis of the term and its implications. After carefully weighing the evidence, the Eastern District of Virginia ultimately determined that the term “redskin” is disparaging to the Native American population, and is subsequently undeserving of continued federal registration.
In sum, the Eastern District of Virginia affirmed the TTAB determination that the term “redskins” would not enjoy continued registration as a trademark on the basis that the term is, and was always, likely to disparage a “substantial composite” of the Native American population.
Today, it is largely undisputed that the term “redskin” is, by definition, offensive as a descriptor for Native Americans. Fast-forwarding, several years later, the NFL’s Washington Redskins team is now known as the Washington Commanders; it was only a matter of time before the team’s ownership wilted under the mounting legal, economic, and public policy pressures.
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