US Patent and Trademark Office Revokes Washington Football Team’s Name

The agency has ruled against the embattled team, canceling its trademark registration and saying that the name was “disparaging to Native Americans.”

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Ray Halbritter, an Oneida Indian Nation representative, speaks at a press conference after meeting with senior officials of the National Football League about changing the mascot name of the Washington Redskins Oct. 30, 2013, in New York.

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

The battle over the Washington, D.C., football team’s name has been decided in one fell swoop, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceling the federal trademark protection that the offensive name has enjoyed, calling it “disparaging to Native Americans,” the Washington Post reports. The particular groundbreaking case was filed on behalf of five Native Americans before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which ruled in their favor.

“This victory was a long time coming and reflects the hard work of many attorneys at our firm,” the case’s lead attorney, Jesse Witten, of Drinker Biddle & Reath, said.

As the Washington Post notes, federal trademark law forbids registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups. Native Americans and allies have long argued that the team’s name (Redskins) and logo are offensive.

“We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case,” Alfred Putnam Jr., the chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath, told the Post. “The dedication and professionalism of our attorneys and the determination of our clients have resulted in a milestone victory that will serve as an historic precedent.”

According to the Post, as significant as the landmark ruling is, it does not require the team to change the name. However, it does affect the profits that the National Football League and the team can make from its merchandise, since, by limiting the team’s ability to sue for copyright infringement, it loosens the reins on anyone who wants to copy the logo and name on paraphernalia.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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