Washington Redskins Tackle Challenge to Team Name

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On February 7, 2013, the NFL’s Washington Redskins were forced to defend the validity of six of the team’s trademarks to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  Several Native American Petitioners have claimed that the Redskins’ name and logo are disparaging and offensive to Native Americans – making them barred from trademark protection under the Lanham Act.  Jesse A. Witten, counsel for the Native Americans, noted, “We are focused on the word “Redskin’ and no other matter.  ‘Redskin’ is an ethnic slur.  It is an epithet.”

This is not the first time a group of Native Americans have sought to invalidate the six trademarks at issue.  Attempts to change the team’s name in 1992 and 2006 both failed.  Further, the Petitioners faces an uphill battle – i.e. providing relevant evidence indicating that a majority of Native Americans have been offended by the team’s name.  Still, the Native American petitioners remain hopeful that the third time will be the charm.  Amanda Black, one of the petitioners, insisted, “Times have changed . . . .  We need to move forward.  We need a name change.”

During an interview, Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen denied that the team’s use of the name was disparaging, and insisted that the team would not change its name.  Allen stated, “You’ll find that the Redskins have a positive image . . . .  I’m sure there’s a handful of critics to anything that happens in this country or in sports.”

Trademark Board Hears Challenge to ‘Redskins’ Team Name

NFL’s Redskins Defend Team Name Against Trademark Challenge

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