Redskins Suit Against Native Americans over Trademarks Goes Forward
In a suit brought by a Native American before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) decided in June to cancel the Redskins six trademark registrations because the name was “disparaging to Native Americans.” The team filed a federal lawsuit to overturn that decision.
Following the Redskins suit, the Native American activists submitted a motion to dismiss in which they claimed that the team should have sued the USPTO’s director instead. They argued that because they do not have any economic interest in contesting the trademarks like a business competitor might, they are not the proper party to bring a federal lawsuit against.
However, their argument failed as the judge ruled that “Defendants show no reason why their interest would cease to exist considering reversal of the TTAB’s cancellation of the Redskins marks would subject defendants to the very harm they sought to eliminate by filing the petition.” The judge wrote that “the Redskins marks are valuable communicable symbols through which the public identifies the team and its players” and that dismissing the complaint would deprive the team of an opportunity to review the TTAB’s decision that the name is disparaging.
Jeff Lopez, an attorney for the activists, responded, “We are disappointed by the court’s legal ruling on our motion to dismiss, but our Native American clients remain confident that we will ultimately prevail in this case.”