US Patent and Trademark Office Checkmates the Washington Redskins (Poll)

 

1. Government standing as an enterprise stakeholder.

 

Redskins--FedexField

FedEx Field, Landover MD. Home of the Washington Redskins. Photo by Bernard Gagnon. Reproduction under Creative Commons license.

One of the visceral arguments levied against USPTO conjures up the idea of government overreach. That the federal government is once again putting its nose into places where it does not belong.

However, contrary to a popular myth that professional sports is a private enterprise, it is as much a government enterprise from a number of vantage points. The federal government permits America’s major professional sports to operate as un-natural monopolies, outside the auspices of anti-trust statues. Doing so erects barriers to entry on the part of would-be competitors.

Further, the federal government’s allowing of legislatively-created monopolies artificially boosts consumer demand for regional franchises that are protected from competition. Professional sports franchises likewise benefit from their unique status in the form of lucrative stadiums and other public investment. 

While it is true that FedEx Field, unlike most professional sports venues, was predominantly financed by private capital, according to the Baltimore Sun, the public investment is “large”:

Taxpayers put up $70.5 million for land, sewer lines, highway interchanges and other “infrastructure” necessary to move the Redskins to Landover, five miles from their old location in Washington.

The government — at federal, state, and local levels — essentially creates franchise “value” and thus has a stake in a franchise’s comportment with public interests. Consequently, public interests have a meritorious place at the table of the affairs of professional sports. And this principle of government investment means government involvement extends beyond sports. As an example, similar dynamics exist in broadcasting. So when the government shut down a radio station in response to the United Church of Christ’s complaint of persistent hateful speech towards African Americans, the basis for public trust concerns is grounded largely in the government’s granting of sole use of bandwidth within the public airways.

 

 

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