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

 

3. Legal precedent.

 

Redskins-Natl-Congress-of-Amer-Indians

Attachment 6 in the USPTO response letter to James Bethel, denying his trademark application, shows the American Indian community’s disapproval of the term “Redskins”. See: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn86052159&docId=OOA20131229163025#docIndex=0&page=1

The Washington Redskins decision was not entirely unexpected.

Late in 2014, USPTO denied a company’s trademark request for protection of its port rinds called Redskins Hog Rinds. The agency rejected the request, citing the term “derogatory slang” and “offensive”. A Dec. 29 letter issued by USPTO to applicant James Bethel stated: 

“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark REDSKINS HOG RINDS consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols…”

NFL and Washington Redskins clout, notwithstanding, the Bethel application set the stage for a broader legal question of unequal protection, requiring equitable disposition in both cases before USPTO. To prefer another outcome would be paramount to favoring two sets of laws; one for less powerful entities and another for the most influential.

The implications are enormous and extremely problematic. The very voices that stand under the neon sign of regulatory equity cannot  remain there while intimating that USPTO should have sided with the Washington Redskins despite precedence in the Bethel matter.

Ultimately, cancelling the Washington Redskins trademark has as much to do with legal principles as it does with the concerns of Native Americans. 

 

 

 

 

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