US Patent Office Cancels Washington Redskins Patents, Finding The Name “Disparaging”

June 18, 2014  |  

The US Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal patents for the Washington Redskins, a team name that has offended Native Americans — and other Americans — for years now. The Office has ruled that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans,” therefore can’t be trademarked. Federal law prohibits the trademarking of disparaging language.

“We presented a wide variety of evidence – including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups – to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur,” said plaintiff’s attorney Jesse Witten. (The plaintiff was Amanda Blackhorse.)

The Native American community has become more vocal and proactive about getting the gross team name changed. The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation aired a commercial during game three of the NBA Finals last week. So incredibly powerful.

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused to change the name of the team, saying that some Native Americans don’t find it offensive. He’s also said the name is part of the identity and brand of the team.

“As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season,” he told USA Today last year.

To that argument, the USPTO responded, “The ultimate decision is based on whether the evidence shows that a substantial composite of the Native American population found the term “Redskins” to be disparaging when the respective registrations issued. Therefore, once a substantial composite has been found, the mere existence of differing opinions cannot change the conclusion.”

Deadspin says there will be an appeal, so we won’t see the name go away anytime soon. And without trademark protection, it means idiots can sell their own merchandise with their version of this horrible logo.

But it’s about time that the US government did something positive with respect to Native Americans. It may be just a name, but this ruling signals that we might finally start affording this community the respect they’re due. From respect, we can continue to fight to address the many social and economic problems that plague the Native American people.

First reported by Think Progress

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