No, Trademark Trolls Collecting Various Fake Names For A Washington Football Team Will Not Get In The Way Of The NFL Team's Renaming

from the not-how-any-of-this-works dept

As was widely expected, the NFL team based in Washington DC, formerly using the “Redskins” as their team name, will be renaming themselves after years of people pointing out that the name is racist, and the team being so obnoxious that it has literally sued native Americans who had previously sought to cancel the team’s trademark. Either way, what finally got the Dan Snyder-owned team to ditch the name was… money, of course. The biggest sponsors of the team began to threaten to pull support, and that finally convinced Snyder to do something he should have done a long time ago.

Of course, the story that many are focusing on following the official announcement to find a new name is… the fact that some dude has been busy filing trademark applications on a bunch of possible replacement names.

And if you don’t understand trademark law, that might sound legit, except that none of this is getting in the way of the team picking a new name. We’ve talked in the past about how people always try to rush in and trademark stuff in hopes of getting some crazy payday, but that’s not how trademark law works. You can apply for any trademark (though the costs will add up) but you’re unlikely to get it unless you have actual plans to use it in commerce and you’re not just registering it as a troll.

To his credit, Philip Martin McCauley at least claims that he understands all this and has even set up a website (which I’m not linking to) which offers merchandise featuring the logos of his totally fake Washington DC football team names. That at least gives him a modicum more defensibility than your everyday trademark troll.

United States law requires that the holder of a trademark actually use the term in question.

McCaulay is aware of the provision, which is why he?s spent thousands of dollars creating team merchandise to back up his claims.

In doing so, he said he?s no ordinary trademark squatter, a term with negative connotation used in similar situations.

?A squatter reserves a name with no intention to use it,? McCaulay said. ?I went to the extreme of buying a lot of merchandise, making it my brand, and selling it.?

But the idea that this will, in any way, prevent the actual football team from choosing a name it likes is pretty silly. Perhaps the team would pay off McCauley just to avoid the hassle, but it won’t be because of any legitimate claim to the trademark — just a pure nuisance fee to avoid bad press and wasteful litigation. And, to be honest, Dan Snyder has never struck me as someone who cares much about avoiding bad press or wasteful litigation.

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Companies: nfl, washington redskins

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Comments on “No, Trademark Trolls Collecting Various Fake Names For A Washington Football Team Will Not Get In The Way Of The NFL Team's Renaming”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

For the record, the Washington team is not without a…history of ignoring the obvious writing on the wall George Preston Marshall, the founder and original owner of the team, didn’t hire black players until the federal government told him the team couldn’t play on federally controlled land unless he hired black players. The team finally featured black players in 1962; it was the last NFL team to integrate. Just something to think about when considering how long Snyder waited (and what finally pressured him) to change the name, is all.

Koby (profile) says:

Timeline

I have heard rumors online for the past week that there would be a renaming of the team. Sarcastically, several folks predicted that the new team would be called the Swamp-Lizards. As a last resort, Dan Synder’s team could make those predictions come true, indeed rename themselves the Swamp-Lizards, and then destroy any copyright claims with the Prior Art defense.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, the initital case is a trademark claim, but I’m just trying to think ahead. We know that once IP trolls begin seeing money flash in front of their eyes, they often don’t go away easily. Since this McCauley fellow can’t get a trademark, because he won’t actually have a football team, all that would remain after designing some t-shirts might be a copyright claim. Expensive litigation could be avoided with this particular name change, not to mention the benefit of the epic humor that would result of this becoming reality!

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The team won’t use any existing logo that’s already been made as “spec work” (so to speak) by fans and whatnot, especially not one already in use by this trademark troll. The team will be sure to have a work-for-hire logo made to avoid potential copyright issues and roll that logo into the trademarks filed during the process of changing the team’s “brand”. Copyright won’t be as big an issue as you’d seemingly love it to be; the team’s cadre of expensive lawyers will make sure of that.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Copyright won’t be as big an issue as you’d seemingly love it to be

I hope you’re right. I think some of these patent trolls, especially if they begin sinking some of their own money into the effort, might view a situation like this where they kind of come close as similar to losing a large jackpot lottery ticket.

But mostly, I still would love the name change just for the memes. If the team puts the decision up to one of those Twitter polls, I’m totally organizing a campaign! 😀

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Timeline

I thought prior art was a patent issue. Of use in contesting patents themselves rather than patent infringement suits (though contesting the patent can be a defense in an infringement suit),

I would have thought that "unclean hands" would be better suited to this case, as Philip Martin McCauley is pretty clearly doing this to interfere with the football team to force them to part with a healthy helping of money. The trademark registration, being recent, could be contested on similar grounds.

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Glenn says:

I grew up near D.C. The team name was chosen to celebrate Native American culture, not denigrate it. I mean, who would call their own team something they disrespect? Vikings, Cowboys, 49ers, others.. pick one. Any word is only a racist term if your attitude is racist. (I’m not a fan, so I don’t care what they do with their names.)

Humans. (and, yes, that’s meant to be a slur)

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Stephen, there are failures in every society, including the Red Man’s society. Some small percentage of people fail to achieve, fail to attract a mate, fail to establish long term friendships, and instead focus on old grievances to fill their sad empty lives with meaning. Whoever brandishes the word "racist" usually falls into this category, race-baiters, losers, whiners, those who would inflict pain and suffering and blame on others, rather than themselves. Sad, lonely, sexless and loveless tyrants, laying in wait, like a snake, on their bellies, calling other people bad names when actually they alone are responsible for their sad and pitiful lives.

For example, I’ll bet you there is no Mrs. Stephen T. Stone, and never will be.

Right? Right?

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restless94110 (profile) says:

Really

"As was widely expected, the NFL team based in Washington DC, formerly using the "Redskins" as their team name, will be renaming themselves after years of people pointing out that the name is racist"

The name is not racist,never was, and polls taken of indigenous peoples show a large majority don’t care a whit about the name Redskins. The name is clearly the opposite of racist as it proudly touts the bravery, nobility and strength of those that have red skin. The league should have never caved in cowardice to this stupidity. American Indians have made it clear: they don’t care, they don’t want the name changed. This is being pushed by a minuscule minority of triggered infants. And TechDirt bought the whole thing hook line and sinker.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

The name is not racist,never was

This is true…so long as you forget two specific facts:

  1. The term was being used pejoratively as far back as the 1800s, and
  2. George Preston Marshall, the founder and original owner of the team, was a racist knob who took some measure of (white) pride in not hiring black players (“We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites”) until the government practically forced him to do it.

The name is clearly the opposite of racist as it proudly touts the bravery, nobility and strength of those that have red skin.

The fact that you’re using the racist term in your justifying the term not being racist seems…telling.

American Indians have made it clear:

“57% who strongly identify with being Native American and 67% of those who frequently engage in tribal cultural practices were found to be deeply insulted by caricatures of Native American culture.”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Stephen, I understand your criticism, and where it comes from. You are pointing a finger at another man, a very accomplished man with a complicated history, as have many (if not all) accomplished men have, good and bad, and you are elevating yourself above him, morally. Do you really think you can support that? You are not strong enough, morally, to even use your own name in public. The man you are pointing at is a real man with a real name, that had a real life. You hide behind a fake name, but use your fake persona to point your fake finger at others as if they are less than … less than what? Less than you? You are not even a genuine personage.

You must be really embarrassed of yourself.

I mean, you would be, if you weren’t a mentally ill deranged idiot.

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Anonymous Coward says:

The name Redskins is not Racist, it never was Racist, TO ME!

If I don’t think the name Redskins is Racist, then am I a Racist? Is that your point?

If you think the name Redskins is Racist, then are you a Racist? Is that your point?

At least if I am arguing my opinion, there is someone real BEHIND my argument.

If you are arguing what you imagine to be the opinion of SOMEONE ELSE, someone you DON’T EVEN KNOW and NEVER EVEN MET and NEVER WILL MEET, and I am arguing MY OPINION which I OWN, I think I get the BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT and YOU DO NOT.

No arguments on behalf of other total strangers who are not even present, please. That’s inappropriate.

The name Redskins is NOT racist. Your argument on behalf of third parties is virtue signalling and little else.

Ipso Facto, I win. Thank you very much.

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