Washington Redskins Argue a Violation of their Free Speech

The Washington Redskins fought back against the recent decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office cancelling the team’s  trademark protection over the use of the term ‘redskin’ as many Native American groups find it disparaging.

The court papers filed Monday by the team argue the law denying registration of disparaging trademarks is unconstitutional because it infringes on the team’s First Amendment right to free speech.  The team’s attorneys argue the cancellation of the trademarks disfavors the team and singles them out, “interfering with the ongoing public discourse over the Redskins’ name, by choosing sides and cutting of the debate.”  The lawyers argue that the government should not choose whether a name is disparaging, especially given the many other similar names utilized, like the Braves.

Without the trademarks, the team is still free to use the term in its name.  Such usage would simply not be protected.  It can be argued, therefore, that the law doesn’t restrict or burden the team’s free speech.   The team argues that partial restriction on the use of their name is a serious burden considering their use of it since 1933.  The parties are scheduled for a hearing in court on May 5, 2015.

In January, US Government joined the battle against use of the term by defending the law under attack,  which prohibits the registering of disparaging trademarks, arguing it is constitutional.  Earlier this month, lawmakers got involved as well.  Mike Honda, the US representative for California’s 17th congressional district, Silicon Valley, introduced a bill to force the Washington football team to change their name.  The bill seeks to stop the US Patent and Trademark Office from issuing new trademarks using the term ‘rekdsins’ as a reference to Native Americans.

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