The 177-Page US Patent and Trademark Office Decision That Slammed DC’s NFL Team

Jun 18, 2014
11:38 am

Here is what was made public this morning by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO):

Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Philip Gover, Jillian Pappan, and Courtney Tsotigh v. Pro-Football… via Latino Rebels

In a statement, the USPTO also said this:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board —an independent administrative tribunal within the USPTO— has determined, based on the evidentiary record in the proceeding before it and on applicable law, that the petitioners met their burden to establish that the term “Redskins” was disparaging of Native Americans, when used in relation to professional football services, at the times the various registrations involved in the cancellation proceeding were issued. Thus, the federal registrations for the “Redskins” trademarks involved in this proceeding must be canceled.

The decision to cancel the registrations means that, if not appealed or if affirmed following a possible review by a federal court, the trademark owner (Pro Football, Inc.) will lose the legal benefits conferred by federal registration. These benefits include the legal presumptions of ownership and of nationwide scope of rights in these trademarks, as well as the ability to use the federal registration ® symbol, and to record the registrations with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Service to block importation of infringing or counterfeit foreign goods.

The decision does not, however, require the trademarks in the involved registrations to be changed or no longer be used by Washington, D.C.’s pro football team. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board does not have jurisdiction in a cancellation proceeding to require that a party cease use of a mark, but only to determine whether a mark may continue to be registered.

This decision can be reviewed by a federal court. The registrations will not appear in the USPTO’s records as cancelled until after any judicial review is completed.

More from Think Progress:

The team will almost certainly appeal the case, and it will be able to keep its trademark protection during appeal. Losing the trademark would not force the team to change its name, but it would allow anyone who wanted to use “Redskins” on merchandise or through other means to do so, which could cost the team — and, because of the NFL’s revenue-sharing model, other NFL teams — “every imaginable loss you can think of,” as the team’s lawyers argued in the original case. For that reason, the trademark has long been thought of by opponents of the team’s name as the easiest avenue to changing it.

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