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Redskins Trademarks Canceled by Landmark US Patent Office Decision

Redskins Trademarks Canceled by Landmark US Patent Office Decision

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Published by FindLaw
Six federal trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins were cancelled by an appeal board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The board ruled the term "Redskins" is disparaging to a "substantial composite" of Native Americans.

The immediate legal impact of the ruling, which can be appealed to federal court, could be limited, however. The Washington Redskins football team is not required to stop using the name.

But Wednesday's 2-1 board ruling (attached below) could give critics of the term another shot to urge Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder to change it.

"[W]e decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," said the 2-1 ruling by a panel of three administrative trademark judges at the patent agency, also known as the PTO.

If the trademark ruling survives any potential appeals, the Redskins would lose certain rights and find it harder to crack down on unauthorized sales of merchandise with the team's name and logo.

"This probably isn't going to affect the team's ability to run the business or enforce its rights," Marc Reiner, an intellectual-property lawyer at Moss & Kalish PLLC, in New York, told The Wall Street Journal. "This is just a government body saying that it's inappropriate to have this as a registered trademark."
Six federal trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins were cancelled by an appeal board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The board ruled the term "Redskins" is disparaging to a "substantial composite" of Native Americans.

The immediate legal impact of the ruling, which can be appealed to federal court, could be limited, however. The Washington Redskins football team is not required to stop using the name.

But Wednesday's 2-1 board ruling (attached below) could give critics of the term another shot to urge Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder to change it.

"[W]e decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," said the 2-1 ruling by a panel of three administrative trademark judges at the patent agency, also known as the PTO.

If the trademark ruling survives any potential appeals, the Redskins would lose certain rights and find it harder to crack down on unauthorized sales of merchandise with the team's name and logo.

"This probably isn't going to affect the team's ability to run the business or enforce its rights," Marc Reiner, an intellectual-property lawyer at Moss & Kalish PLLC, in New York, told The Wall Street Journal. "This is just a government body saying that it's inappropriate to have this as a registered trademark."

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Published by: FindLaw on Jun 18, 2014
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 THIS OPINION IS A PRECEDENT OF THE TTAB Hearing: Mailed: March 7, 2013 June 18, 2014 UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE  _____ Trademark Trial and Appeal Board  _____
 Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Philip Gover, Jillian Pappan, and Courtney Tsotigh v
.
 Pro-Football, Inc.
 _____ Cancellation No. 92046185  _____ Jesse A. Witten, Jeffrey J. Lopez, John D. V. Ferman, Lee Roach and Stephen Wallace of Drinker, Biddle & Reath LLP for Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs, Philip Gover, Jillian Pappan, and Courtney Tsotigh. Robert L. Raskopf, Claudia T. Bogdanos and Todd Anten of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP for Pro-Football, Inc.  _____ Before Kuhlke, Cataldo and Bergsman, Administrative Trademark Judges. Opinion by Kuhlke, Administrative Trademark Judge:
OVERVIEW
Petitioners, five Native Americans, have brought this cancellation proceeding pursuant to Section 14 of the Trademark Act of 1946, 15 U.S.C. § 1064(c). They seek to cancel respondent’s registrations issued between 1967 and 1990 for
 
Cancellation No. 92046185 2 trademarks consisting in whole or in part of the term REDSKINS for professional football-related services on the ground that the registrations were obtained contrary to Section 2(a), 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), which prohibits registration of marks that may disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute. In its answer, defendant, Pro-Football, Inc., asserted various affirmative defenses including laches.
1
  As explained below, we decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native  Americans at the respective times they were registered, in violation of Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act of 1946, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a). This decision concerns only the statutory right to
registration
 under Section 2(a). We lack statutory authority to issue rulings concerning the right to
use
 trademarks.
See, e.g.
,
 In re Franklin Press, Inc.
, 597 F.2d 270, 201 USPQ 662, 664 (CCPA 1979). The Registrations at Issue The following six registrations (hereinafter referred to collectively as the REDSKINS marks) are the subject of this cancellation proceeding: 1. Registration No. 0836122 for the mark THE REDSKINS (stylized), shown below, for “entertainment services – namely, football exhibitions rendered in stadia and through the media of radio and television broadcasts,” in Class 41;
2
 
1
 The Board struck the other affirmative defenses, which primarily concern Constitutional challenges and they are preserved for appeal.
2
 Registered September 26, 1967; second renewal.
 
Cancellation No. 92046185 3 2. Registration No. 0978824 for the mark WASHINGTON REDSKINS, in typed drawing form, for “entertainment services – namely, presentations of professional football contests,” in Class 41;
3
 3. Registration No. 0986668 for the mark WASHINGTON REDSKINS and design, shown below, for “entertainment services – namely, presentations of professional football contests,” in Class 41;
4
 4. Registration No. 0987127 for the mark THE REDSKINS and design, shown below, for “entertainment services – namely, presentations of professional football contests,”
5
 in Class 41;
3
 Registered February 12, 1974; third renewal.
4
 Registered June 18, 1974; second renewal.
5
 Registered June 25, 1974; second renewal.

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