A federal court has ruled against Washington, D.C.’s, professional football team in a legal battle with Native Americans over the team’s name.
United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office should cancel the team’s trademark of the Redskins name because the name “may disparage” native Americans.
This order does not go into effect until the team has exhausted its appeals. The next step for the team would be the United States Supreme Court.
But as Judge Lee points out, even if the judicial system ultimately sides with the group of Native Americans fighting this in court, the team could still continue to use its name. The decision would mean that the team would no longer be protected by federal trademark protections, which means the team would have a harder time stopping independent sellers from using its logo on jerseys, for example.
As the Washington Post reports, the team has argued that canceling its trademark “would taint its brand and remove legal benefits that would protect against copycat entrepreneurs.”
In Lee’s opinion for the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, he ruled against the team and agreed with a previous ruling from the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Lee wrote: “The Court finds that Blackhorse Defendants have shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the ‘may disparage’ claim: the record evidence shows that the term ‘redskin,’ in the context of Native Americans and during the relevant time period, was offensive and one that ‘may disparage’ a substantial composite of Native Americans, ‘no matter what the goods or services with which the mark is used.’ … ‘Redskin’ certainly retains this meaning when used in connection with PFI’s football team; a team that has alwaysassociated itself with Native American imagery, with nothing being more emblematic of this association than the use of a Native American profile on the helmets of each member of the football team.”