Monday, July 7, 2014
Redskins Trademark Cancelation: An Offensive Foul By the Trademark Office
The Trademark Office committed a personal foul by canceling the Redskins’ trademark registration.
Registrations are personal property due all of the constitutional safeguards enjoyed by any other property. For instance, the government cannot “take” property without compensating the owner. Yet, that is exactly what occurred here.
If Pro Footballs’ appeal fails, rebranding this franchise will cost untold millions of dollars. Worse yet, if there is any merit to the cancellation, is that everyone will be free to use “Redskins” to refer to their football teams, to place it on clothing, to place it on sporting goods, etc. Indeed, without federal protection, the cancellation will likely cause the use of the term to explode (notwithstanding the presumptively still valid state-based trademark rights).
Ostensibly, the Trademark Office canceled the registration because the term disparages Native Americans. Interestingly, the Trademark Office received not a single complaint (but for the lawsuit leading to the cancelation) against this famous trademark.
That using a term to refer to a football team would disparage anyone seems a bit odd. Every team name that comes to mind seems chosen to borrow the prestige, respect, and/or adoration of the selected mascot. For instance, “Texans” borrows from the loyalty paid to the state of Texas. And “Astros” borrows the respect due America’s astronauts.
Over the years the Redskins have won great success with five NFL Championships victories (two pre-merger, and three Super Bowls). They also captured 13 NFL divisional titles and six NFL conference championships. It seems that this use of Redskins, if anything, enhances the reputation of Native Americans.
That the government would harm a business at the behest of apparent mob mentality (a.k.a. political correctness) should give business owners who could be attacked next cause for concern.
We at the Villhard Patent Group would enjoy the opportunity to speak with you about your potential trademarks and other intellectual property issues. You can find more information about us at www.villhardpatents.com or you can contact us at 512-897-0399.