Federal Judge Orders Cancellation of Washington Redskins Trademark

By Rachel Wold


According to a report by ESPN, a federal judge called for the cancellation of the Washington Redskins’ trademark claiming that the name could be offensive to Native Americans.The decision by Judge Gerald Bruce Lee to have the Federal Patent and Trademark Office cancel the trademark confirms a previous finding by the administrative appeal board.

Washington Redskins officials will appeal the ruling, per President Bruce Allen:

“We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case. We are convinced that we will win because the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.”

In a 70-page ruling, Judge Lee said that the Redskins can still use the name if they want. However, the team would relinquish some of the legal protection that comes with having a federal trademark.

Judge Lee stated that federal law allows government to have editorial control over the trademark registration program. He compared the trademark registration to government speech rather than private speech. In the ruling, Judge Lee claims the standard for cancelling the trademark registration is because the name “may disparage” Native Americans. This is despite the fact that the Washington Redskins claim to have kept their name to honor Native Americans.
The Washington Redskins argue that cancelling the trademark encroaches on their freedom of speech rights since the government was called to judge whether or not their name is offensive.

Judge Lee concluded that the Native American leaders have been objecting to the team’s name for many years along with noting that dictionary terminology of the word “Redskins” is offensive.

Photo: USA Today Sports