Native American Group Targets Washington Redskins’ Trademarks

by T+B Blog Team on September 14, 2012

A trademark case between a Native American group and the owners of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins is now going into its sixth year with the filing of new papers this week by the petitioners. The case of Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. seeks to invalidate the football team’s trademark registrations for “Redskins” on the grounds that the team name is a racial slur. Six Redskins’ trademark registrations are under dispute, including the Redskinettes, which is the name of the team’s cheerleaders, along with the image of a Native American used on the team’s helmets.

This case was first filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in 2006, but was put on hold until 2010 while a similar case, Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo, made its way through the court system. Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo attempted to cancel the Redskins trademark registrations based on the claim that the team name was disparaging to Native Americans. The court found no evidence that the Redskins name was so insulting that it could not be protected by a trademark and ruled in favor of the team in 2003. That decision was upheld by a federal court of appeals in 2009.

The Washington Post reports that the attorney for the Redskins owner believes that the Blackstone case was settled by the Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo decision. “We think the trial judge in D.C. a long time ago ruled there was no substantial evidence the [trade]mark disparaged Native Americans,” Robert L. Raskopf of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan told The Washington Post.

What’s next? Attorneys for the Redskins will now have to file a brief in response.

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