Redskins Trademark Cancelled: What Does it Mean?

But what does it all mean?
Here are answers to some of the questions people are asking:

What law is at issue? 

The Lanham Act controls trademarks.  In particular, Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 USC §1052(a) provides as follows:

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it –-

Consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute…

How can the government make these unilateral decisions? 

The decision was not unilateral.  Amanda Blackhorse and four other individuals petitioned the USPTO for the cancellation, arguing that it violated trademark laws which prohibit the registration of immoral, scandalous and disparaging marks.  The Redskins had the opportunity to respond and defend it.  But they lost.

Where do the Redskins go from here? 

Will the Redskins be forced to change their name? 

No, the Redskins are not compelled to change its name, they merely lost their federal registration.  Federal registration of a trademark is a presumption of ownership of that mark in connection with certain goods and services.  Registration also provides a registrant with the potential for punitive damages and attorney’s fees in a trademark infringement suit.  The Redskins mark is still protected by common law, and perhaps some state laws, although perhaps courts may be less willing to enforce those rights.

What should the Redskins do next? 

The Redskins have a unique opportunity based on the team’s geographic location and the fact that a name, logo or uniform change typically leads to increased sales of branded merchandise.  Therefore, the Redskins should consider changing the name to something that honors the military personnel and veterans (perhaps Warriors, an idea I came across on Uni Watch and Bleacher Report) and make billions of dollars from the sale of the new merchandise.

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