WHAT DOES TODAY’S U. S. TRADEMARK OFFICE RULING FOR THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM MEAN?

Today, the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the Trademark for the NFL Washington Football Team, in the case of: Blackhorse v. NFL Football, Inc.  The Trademark was cancelled because a it is prohibited by Law from being disparaging to any Person or Group.

The cancellation can be appealed, which had happened one time before.  In the previous Appeal, the cancellation was overturned by a Federal Court.  The political environment today, however, doesn’t seem to be in favor of a reversal.  The Team may continue to use the Name and Logo; however, it cannot block others from doing so, as well.  An article from The Guardian (UK), which provides more information on the cancellation, is linked as follows: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/jun/18/washington-redskins-lose-trademark-team-us-patent-office.

The official web site for the NFL Washington Football Team is as follows: http://www.redskins.com.  There has been some discussion on TV, comparing this situation to the recent brouhaha regarding the NBA L. A. Clippers Basketball Team.  In that instance, a number of large corporate sponsors withdrew their financial support for the Team.

It will be interesting to see if there will be any carry-over to other Teams, whether Professional or College.  In some cases, such as the Cleveland Indians Baseball Team, the name might not be offensive; but, the logo of a Looney Indian, with the name of “Chief Wahoo” might be.  Others, like the Florida State Seminoles and the Fighting Illini, of the University of Illinois, might not be considered offensive.  I believe the provision that a Trademark not be “Disparaging to any Person or Group” might be the key test in future cases.

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  1. #1 by cheekos on June 19, 2014 - 12:44 PM

    On a lighter note, what happens when two Tribes differ in opinion as to what is offensive–or two offshoots of the same Tribe? As Native Americans might look around for other Teams to take Legal Action against, the Florida State University “Seminoles” might come to mind. It certainly is of higher visibility than most other College Teams with Native American or Indian Names.

    As it turns-out, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is in favor of FSU using its Name. The Tribe advises FSU on Traditions, the Logo, costume, etc., and the School provides the tribe with a certain number of Scholarships each year. The Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma, however, doesn’t like FSU using the Seminole Name.

    I have suggested, in the past, that it might be a Regional Thing–two different States, and Different Schools. So, why not let Oklahoma State and Florida State fight it out on the Football Field. Now, can you imagine the Seminoles in Oklahoma actually rooting for the “Cowboys” of OSU, against the “Seminoles” of FSU? Get real!

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