USPTO: The Term 'Redskins' Is Offensive And Can't Be Trademarked
from the paging-Dan-Snyder dept
Months back I and others were questioning whether or not the NFL’s Washington Redskins team could trademark their name, given that trademark law includes some fairly explicit language that bans such marks on offensive, racist, or derogatory language. While some folks raised understandable concerns about the flimsy nature of the oft-offended, it was and is my opinion that the United States government should not be in the business of sanctifying rich, white men making gobs of money off of a reference to the skin color of a group of people that same government had nearly obliterated. Crazy, I know, but ‘yam what I ‘yam.
And now, amazingly, we appear to have our answer. And that answer is that you of course can’t trademark the term “Redskins” because it’s derogatory.
Late last month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied an application to register a trademark for “Redskins Hog Rinds,” a product wholly unrelated to the Washington football team. The USPTO’s reasoning for refusing the trademark is simple: It’s offensive. From the USPTO decision:
“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark REDSKINS HOG RINDS consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”
As Deadspin notes, this is unrelated to the Washington team, which already has their mark and does not have to go through this same review process, but the point appears to be clear: the USPTO says you can’t trademark “Redskins” because of the nature of the word. The timing of this is likely worrisome to Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins, given that there is a lawsuit brought by a group of Native Americans sitting before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, who is sure to point to this application denial as evidence in their claim. Losing the mark wouldn’t infringe on Snyder’s speech by preventing him from using the word for his team and merchandise. It would simply allow everyone who wanted to use an openly racist term on merchandise to do so, which would almost certainly lead to Snyder changing the name of the team to something less horrific.