Erik Brady, USA Today, July 8, 2015
The Washington NFL team lost in court Wednesday when a federal judge ordered the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to schedule cancellation of six federal trademark registrations owned by the club, ruling that the team’s name–“Redskins”–was disparaging to a substantial composite of Native Americans when the marks were originally granted.
U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee emphasized that the team remains free to use the name as it chooses and that the ruling means only that the team loses the specific legal protections of its federal registrations, which remain in effect until all potential appeals in the case are heard.
Lee’s ruling affirms the findings of the patent office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which last year ruled in favor of Amanda Blackhorse and four other Native Americans who sought cancellation of the registrations. The team had sued in district court to overturn that ruling.
A statement from Washington team president Bruce Allen said the team was surprised by the decision and indicated the team will appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
“We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case,” Allen said. “We are convinced that we will win because the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.”
The case is officially known as Pro-Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse, et al. “All Native Americans can stand proud,” Blackhorse told The Arizona Republic. “This means the cancellations stand.”