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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Filed Under: football, martin mccauley, philip mccauley, teams names, trademark, trademark trolls, use in commerce
Companies: nfl, washington redskins


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:20pm

    It's funny to see people in the thread weigh in who clearly don't understand the law.

    "This is how you copyright something. It's 100% legal."

    "It's first come first serve. Dan slacked now he'll have to pay."

    Um, no, it's trademark, not copyright. You can't copyright a name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:21pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:31pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:41pm

      copyright

      This isn’t a copyright case.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        christenson, 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:52pm

        Re: prior art defense

        somehow I don't think koby was serious when he used a patent technique -- the prior art defense!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Koby (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:04pm

        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!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:34pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Koby (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:42pm

            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! :D

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:51pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:55pm

    In honor of all the faux-outrage merchants, the team will be called the Washington Thinskins...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 12:58pm

      Now, when you say “faux outrage” groups, are you referring to the actual Native Americans who’ve been asking for this name change because they consider the name to be a slur against them?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 4:21pm

        Re:

        are you referring to the actual Native Americans

        All three of them?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      christenson, 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:27pm

      Re: Washington Thickskins

      Given the history, the team has been pretty thick actually...thus washington thickskins...if not swamp-lizards!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 8:14pm

      Re:

      Wouldn't it be just a tad arrogant for Snyder to name it after himself?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:25pm

    What could go wrong

    I guess they could name them the Washington Pale Faces.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:29pm

      Re: What could go wrong

      I don't know...I'm kind of partial to the Washington Fightin' Whiteys.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:40pm

      Re: What could go wrong

      Well, if you're trying to imagine how things could go wrong in the worst possible way, they could rename themselves the Washington Savages and keep the logo the same. I don't think you could get much more outrageous than that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 2:16pm

        The team has already confirmed it will retire the old logo and the new logo will avoid using any Native American imagery. I assume the same notion would apply to the name as well.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 2:17pm

        Re: Re: What could go wrong

        I rather like the "Washington savages", so long as their logo is a congress critter.

        Or an orange president with a bad hair do.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Pixelation, 13 Jul 2020 @ 2:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: What could go wrong

          The could call themselves the Washington Klan and have pointy helmets.

          My terrible sense of humor will probably get me in trouble...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 10:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What could go wrong

            Actual Humor! Good for you! I'll bet you got laid recently, and stopped taking all that leftist bullshit so seriously.

            Very funny! Pointy Helmets! Great visual!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 14 Jul 2020 @ 5:33am

      Re: What could go wrong

      and have Calvin Coolidge's profile under the feathered headdress. (Google can help you find a famous photo of Cal in Indian headdress. Warned that people would laugh at him, he replied that a little laughter wouldn't do any harm.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeff Green (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 1:39pm

    Keep the spirit of the old name

    Call themselves the Washington Americans. They claimed the name 'honoured' native Americans, this still would and I'd love to see the looney right get upset about that name!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 2:26pm

    Hilarious stuff - typical of the Washington team and everything around it. Just ordered an extra 25 Lbs of popcorn to go along with this. I am sure I will use it all....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 13 Jul 2020 @ 3:55pm

    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)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 5:45pm

      Any word is only a racist term if your attitude is racist.

      I guess all those Native Americans who said the old team name is a slur against them and campaigned for a name change for years are a whole big bunch of racist assholes, then, huh.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2020 @ 9:55pm

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2020 @ 9:46am

          Re: Re:

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

          No, he's a homosexual, so there will never be a Mrs.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2020 @ 11:09pm

          Re: Re:

          “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.”

          You’re so close to figuring it out bro.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    restless94110 (profile), 13 Jul 2020 @ 11:03pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2020 @ 8:01am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Talmyr, 14 Jul 2020 @ 1:02pm

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

      Please feel free to go to Harlem and try that argument out with the 'n' word.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2020 @ 11:13pm

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

      “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,”

      You could cut the irony steaming off that statement with a knife.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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