Moving Beyond 'Bigotry of Yore,' Court Revokes Redskins Trademark

Home / Moving Beyond 'Bigotry of Yore,' Court Revokes Redskins Trademark

In what is being reported as the biggest legal blow thus far against the contentious Washington D.C. football enterprise, a federal court on Wednesday ruled that the name “Redskins” is disparaging to Native Americans and thus its trademark registration must be revoked.

In the decision (pdf), Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Alexandria, Virginia ordered the federal Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the registration. Though it does not forbid use of the name, the ruling threatens the team’s ability to protect its brand or prevent others from selling items with the team’s logo.

The ruling upholds a previous court decision in a case brought by five Native American plaintiffs, led by Navajo activist Amanda Blackhorse, who argued that the team name is offensive and violates the federal Lanham Act, which prohibits trademarks that denigrate people or bring them into “contempt or disrepute.” Last August, Blackhorse and the others were sued by the team before the Department of Justice intervened.

In a statement (pdf), the Change the Mascot campaign celebrated the ruling as victory for Blackhorse and others “at a moment when the country is clearly demanding an end to the bigotry of yore.”


The statement continues:

The cancellation would not go into effect until the team have gone through all of their appeals. “But even if the Redskins ultimately take the case to the Supreme Court and lose, the team can still use ‘Redskins’ and seek trademark protections under state law,” the Washington Post reports.

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