Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Washington Redskins' trademark revoked by Patent Office

Five Native Americans have won, with the help of Drinker Biddle & Reath, their case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Federal trademark law doesn't permit registration of trademarks that "may disparage" individuals or groups or "bring them into contempt or disrepute."
     This was a clever ploy. Since the Redskins organization evidently cares only about money, Native Americans hit it where it hurts — the team's ability to make money from merchandising, since it cannot now take effective legal action against people who pirate the logo on apparel, glasses, license plate holders, etc.
     (Update: that's not strictly true; the team can still sue under common law, even though the government no longer has to help them investigate counterfeit merchandise.)
     Several weeks ago, Nebraska Senators Fischer and Johanns refused to sign a letter circulated, signed and sent by 50 of their colleagues deploring the insulting trademark and encouraging the Redskins to find another. Now the team will have to.
     We knew that Fischer's and Johann's callous disregard of obvious racism was on the wrong side of history, but we had no idea it would find itself in the dustbin this quickly.

Update: Now trending on twitter: #NewRedskinsName. The most sensible suggestion was Washington Warriors, which would have allowed the team to keep the Native American logo and dump the racism, but that horse has left the barn. Lots of snark, like "Washington Hypocrites" (which might be confused with the NFL itself) and "DC Redskins."

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