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."