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U.S. Patent Office Cancels Trademark for Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins name change

U.S. Patent Office Cancels Trademark for Washington Redskins

Is It Finally Time for a Redskins Name Change?

Big news out of Washington, and no it’s not even politics-related.  Yesterday, as ThinkProgress reported:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits the protection of offensive or disparaging language.

Let me start off by saying this… WORD!! This is huge news for anyone either active in the fight against racism (where you always appreciate an extra boost) or those who wish they were in the fight, but feel like it’s an uphill, helpless battle. Native Americans have been fighting for a Redskins name change for years on end now, and team owner Dan Snyder has offered little in the way of even giving a damn.

Now, however, he just took a massive uppercut right to the place that truly affects any business owner — the bank account. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Snyder will even sweat the financial losses associated with this (and of course there will be appeals), but I’m sure the heat will turn up regardless.

He may like throwing money away to prove a point (and I must wonder if that point isn’t simply that he’s a racist), but I’m sure others won’t appreciate it — including the National Football League of which he is of course a member.  When an official letter of the law ruling comes down slapping your hand, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell usually isn’t far behind. Donald Sterling anyone?

Here are more details on the ruling:

“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote in its opinion, which is here.

“The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with our clients that the team’s name and trademarks disparage Native Americans. The Board ruled that the Trademark Office should never have registered these trademarks in the first place,” Jesse Witten, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a press release.

“We presented a wide variety of evidence – including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups – to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur.”

“I am extremely happy that the [Board] ruled in our favor,” Blackhorse said in a statement. “It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans. We filed our petition eight years ago and it has been a tough battle ever since.

I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed. The team’s name is racist and derogatory.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again – if people wouldn’t dare call a Native American a ‘redskin’ because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?”

A little secret — taking the fight to Snyder and the NFL over a Redskins name change stands near the top on our side projects list over at The Walk a Mile Project — something we hope to jump into this Fall when football kicks back into full swing — but I would absolutely love it if this decision brings the issue to a boil and results in a resolution here in 2014.

Snyder’s reputation is well-known, so all bets are off on whether or not he even budges on this,.  We’ll find out soon enough, and stay in touch with us at The Double Truth to see if any further progress is made.

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