US Gov’t Joins Fight Against “Redskins” Trademark

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On Friday, January 9, the United States Department of Justice filed a notice of intervention with the Eastern District of Virginia to intervene in the lawsuit between Washington’s football team and the Native American group, who successfully petitioned to have the team’s trademarks revoked.

The lawsuit stems from a June ruling by the US Patent & Trademark Office that revoked six of the Washington football team’s trademarks as the term “Redskin” was determined to be disparaging to a substantial amount of Native Americans during the 1967-1990 time period during which the trademarks were granted.  The suit garnered the DOJ’s attention because the football team is claiming that the Lanham Act, under which the trademarks were revoked, is “unconstitutionally vague” and violates the team’s First Amendment right of free speech.

The Department of Justice is authorized to intervene in any matter in which the constitutionality of a federal statute is questioned.  A spokesperson for the department indicated that they decided to exercise that right as they are “dedicated to defending the constitutionality of the important statute ensuring that trademark issues involving disparaging and derogatory language are dealt with fairly.”  The defendant group of Native Americans welcomes the aid of the US Government in litigating this matter.

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