Redskins trademark voided, ruled ‘disparaging of Native Americans’
By Joseph White Associated Press June 18, 2014 9:30PM
Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. A bipartisan group of New York lawmakers is calling on the NFL's Washington Redskins to drop the team's name. Members of the Senate and Assembly say they'll introduce a resolution urging Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to rename the team. Halbritter says the resolution would ensure New York stands "on the right side of history." (AP Photo/Mike Groll) ORG XMIT: NYMG103
Updated: June 18, 2014 10:06PM
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled Wednesday that the Washington Redskins’ name is “disparaging of Native Americans” and should be stripped of trademark protection — a decision that puts powerful new financial and political pressure on the NFL team to rename itself.
By a vote of 2-1, the agency’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board sided with five Native Americans in a dispute that has been working its way through legal channels for more than two decades.
The ruling doesn’t directly force the team to abandon the name, but it adds momentum to the campaign at a time of increasing criticism of Redskins owner Dan Snyder from political, religious and sports figures who say it’s time for a change.
“If the most basic sense of morality, decency and civility has not yet convinced the Washington team and the NFL to stop using this hateful slur, then hopefully today’s patent ruling will, if only because it imperils the ability of the team’s billionaire owner to keep profiting off the denigration and dehumanization of Native Americans,” Oneida Indian representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata, two of the leading forces in the campaign to change the name, said in a statement.
The Redskins quickly announced they will appeal, and the team’s name will continue to have trademark protection while the matter makes its way through the courts — a process that could take years.
A similar ruling by the board in 1999 was overturned on a technicality in 2003.
“We’ve seen this story before,” Redskins attorney Bob Raskopf said. “And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo. We are confident we will prevail once again.”
Snyder and others associated with the team have long argued that the Redskins name is used with respect and honor and is a source of pride among many Native Americans.
The ruling involves six uses of the Redskins name trademarked by the team from 1967 to 1990. It does not apply to the team’s American Indian- head logo.
If it stands, the team will still be free to use the name but will lose a lot of its ability to protect its financial interests. It will be more difficult for the team to go after others who print the Redskins name on sweatshirts, jerseys or other gear without permission.