REDSKINS TIME OUT AT FEDERAL APPEALS COURT
A federal appeals court has postponed hearing arguments as to whether the trademark REDSKINS is offensive.
Both the team and the federal government agreed the case should be put on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decides another trademark case that raises the same basic issues. The team is challenging a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark for the name “Redskins” on the grounds that it is offensive.
While that case was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a dispute involving Asian American musicians from Portland, who were refused trademark registration for their band’s name, The Slants (see my other Blog Post on this). The USPTO refused to register THE SLANTS as a federal trademark for names considered offensive, which is the same law at issue in the Redskins case.
A lower court found that provision to be unconstitutional, as a restraint on free speech, so the feds are now appealing. A decision is expected by late June. Although the loss of a registration would not strip the team from being able to use the name, it would bar them from federal benefit protections including the right to exclusive nationwide use of the mark, and to enforce its trademark rights against infringers.
There are many reasons why a trademark might be threatened, one of which could be changes on social standards, or perhaps changing meanings.
The history of the fight for the Redskins brand can be found on Wikipedia here
See also, our article on the band ‘The Slants’