By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A federal judge ruled on Wednesday, July 8 that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cancel the Washington NFL football team’s “Redskins” trademark. U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said in his 70-page decision that the USPTO cancel the registration for six marks.
Judge Lee wrote, “…the marks consisted of matter that ‘may disparage’ a substantial composite of Native Americans…” Read the entire opinion here
He added, “…the (1) dictionary evidence, (2) literary, scholarly, and media references, and (3) statements of individuals and groups in the referenced group show that the Redskins marks consisted of matter that ‘may disparage’ a substantial composite of Native Americans during the relevant time period.”
The USPTO previously cancelled the trademarks in a 2-1 decision from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board on June 18, 2014. USPTO, at that time, said in a statement, “The trademark owner (Pro Football, Inc.) will lose the legal benefits conferred by federal registration.”
Following that decision, a lawsuit was filed in Virginia (Pro Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse, et al) which was acted upon by Judge Lee on Wednesday.
Blackhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation, said on Twitter on Wednesday, “Victory!! #NotYourMascot!!”
Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen said in a statement on Wednesday, “I am surprised by the judge’s decision to prevent us from presenting our evidence in an open trial. We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case. We are convinced that we will win because the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.”
Judge Lee ruled against Pro Football, Inc. on their First Amendment challenge in their lawsuit stating, “First, Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act does not implicate the First Amendment. Second, the federal trademark registration program is government speech and is therefore exempt from First Amendment scrutiny.”
Earlier in the year, USET endorsed legislation, introduced by Congressman Mike Honda (D-Calif.), known as The Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act. At the time, USET president Brian Patterson commented, “If the NFL’s Washington’s franchise is unwilling to change the offensive mascot, then steps should be taken, wherever possible, to eliminate public funding and trademark protection for a league that persists in offending and insulting Native peoples.”