A federal District Court affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (TTAB) ruling that “Redskins” cannot be registered as a trademark for use in connection with a professional football team, because the marks were found to be disparaging to Native Americans at the time they were registered.
The Washington Redskins football team first obtained a federal registration for its “Redskins” team name in the 1960’s. For the last 20 years, its registrations have been challenged by a group of American Indians claiming the mark is disparaging. Earlier this year, the TTAB ruled that the “Redskins” mark violates Lanham Act Section 2(a), which prohibits registration of “disparaging” marks.
In this appeal, the Redskins argued that the federal government’s ban on registering offensive trademarks is unconstitutional. The district court held that cancelling a trademark registration does not violate the First Amendment because the cancellation does not burden, restrict or prohibit the team’s ability to continue to use the mark. Thus, the court held that the TTAB ruling should stand.
The Washington Redskins will likely file another appeal.
Pro-Football Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse et al., case no. 1:14-cv-01043 (U.S. District Court. E.D. VA, July 8, 2015).