NEWS: USPTO find “Redskins” disparaging, cancels trademark registration

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the USPTO today issued a split decision finding that the football team name “Redskins” is disparaging of Native Americans. Among the many reasons that a trademark may be blocked from being registered in the first place, or cancelled if it has previously issued, is that it disparages an individual or group.

This disparagement may exist at the time of registration or when it comes up later in time. That is why Pro Football’s defense – claiming that the registration has been in place for so long and has been the subject of significant invest –  fell flat.

PRACTICE POINT:  Barring further action or appeals, this decision only means the registration will be cancelled. It does not, however, prevent continued use of the name Red Skins. The biggest change will be that Pro Football will no longer be able to claim trademark infringement as a basis for stopping production and sale of non-licensed products using the Redskins name.  Of course, have a governmental body determine that your name is disparaging will not help Pro Football in future actions.

The USPTO has provided the following to explain this decision, how the trademark system works, and what this decision does and does not mean for Pro Football:

TTAB Decision

Media Fact Sheet

Official USPTO Statement on the Decision

For insights into this decision, or to to discuss any of your trademark needs, feel free to contact Zak Shusterman.

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