Lawyers for Redskins Put Different Spin on Trademark Case

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The Redskins filed a motion to overturn the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision to cancel the team’s trademark because it infringes on freedom of speech rights and “unfairly singles the team out.”

The lawyers for the team argued that the cancellation decision “unfairly singles out the Redskins for disfavored treatment based solely on the content of its protected speech, interfering with the ongoing public discourse over the Redskins’ name by choosing sides and cutting off the debate.  This the U.S. Constitution does not tolerate.”

Moreover, they contended that the government should not decide which name is content-neutral and thus deserving of trademark protection and which is not.  While continuing to argue that the team’s name is disparaging, the Redskins lawyers additionally challenged the constitutionality of the law that disallows registration of disparaging marks.

The Redskins legal team advocated for a broader interpretation of free-speech protections that government restrictions could burden speech in violation of the First Amendment without completely banning it.  According to the lawyers, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s cancellation put such a burden on the team, especially when it has used the name for over 80 years.

In the past where the government had to defend the trademark law, it argued that the law does not infringe on free-speech rights but simply denies the protection of a federal trademark.  Accordingly, the Redskins can still refer themselves as the Redskins, but the team’s trademark would lose some of the legal protections afforded to a registered trademark.

A hearing is scheduled for May 5.

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