U.S. Patent Office Cancels Washington Redskins Federal Trademarks

By Community | June 18, 2014

Owner Daniel Snyder’s bid to keep the Washington Redskins name has been dealt a blow after the U.S. Patent Office ruled the Washington Redskins nickname is “disparaging of Native Americans” and that the team’s federal trademarks for the name must be canceled.

The decision by a Patent Office administrative tribunal followed years of criticism of the Washington club by Native Americans and others who said the name was denigratory.

Evidence presented to the tribunal showed that “Redskins” was disparaging of Native Americans, it said in a statement.

“Thus, the federal registrations for the ‘Redskins’ trademarks involved in this proceeding must be canceled,” the agency said.

Redskins owner Snyder has refused to change the team’s name, citing tradition, but there has been growing pressure including statements in recent months from President Barack Obama, lawmakers of both parties and civil rights groups.

The decision means that the team can continue to use the Redskins name, but it would lose a significant portion of its ability to protect its financial interests. If others printed the name on sweatshirts, apparel, or other team material, it becomes more difficult to go after people who use it without permission.

Redskins’ attorney Bob Raskopf said in a statement: “We’ve seen this story before. And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.”

The decision can be reviewed by a federal court.