Patent Office Rules Against Football Team on Racist Name

Stephen Quillen

As controversy mounts regarding the Washington football team’s use of the term “redskin,” the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled on Wednesday to cancel the franchise’s trademark registration. While the decision does not force the team to abandon its title, it does place restrictions on how the franchise may profit from the name and logo, given that others can now use them on unofficial merchandise. According to the Washington Post: Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that "may disparage" individuals or groups or "bring them into contempt or disrepute." The ruling pertains to six different trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word "redskin." Despite increasing pressure from politicians, Native American advocacy groups and NFL players, team owner Dan Snyder has continually refused to change the name. Still, the court’s decision marks considerable progress in pushing for a name change—as Neil Irwin notes at the New York Times, "It's hard to view the new ruling as anything other than the beginning of the end of the name."

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Stephen Quillenis a Summer 2014 intern at In These Times.
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