Following several years of pressure on the owners of the Washington Redskins to change the team name on the grounds that it is offensive, the case reached a climax on Wednesday when the USPTO withdrew its protection for six trademark registrations for the team name.
The decision was made by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which ruled that the Redskins name was “disparaging” to Native Americans, The Washington Times reports.
In response, the Redskins said it would appeal the decision, which is unlikely to have an immediate financial impact on the team. In a press statement, the team’s trademark attorney Bob Raskopf expressed confidence that the decision would be overturned.
The USPTO said that that during the appeal process, the team will still be allowed to use the logos and they will be treated as though they are valid. The appeal of the decision, however, could delay any potential effect for months, if not years.
CNN Money commented that if the decision is upheld, the team will find it extremely difficult to claim rights to its brand and will have to prove that it has always used the logos. According to Frank Vuono, former vice president of retail licensing at the National Football League, the team could lose “tens of millions” from merchandise if the court refuses to recognize its trademark rights. At the same time, the loss on sponsorship royalties for the league could reach “hundreds of millions,” Vuono said in The Wall Street Journal.
Five Native Americans filed the suit against the Redskins in 2006, claiming that laws do not allow the “registration of marks that may disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The law firm that represented the five men and women said in a statement they were “extraordinary gratified” with the ruling.