A Virginia federal judge has upheld the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's decision to cancel the Washington Redskins' trademark registrations, rejecting the team's argument that the federal ban on offensive trademarks is unconstitutional. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee affirms a decision last June by the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that “Redskins” violated Section 2a of the Lanham Act that bars “disparaging” registrations.
The court's decision stated the challengers to the trademark had met the technical legal requirements to prove “disparagement,” and also rejected the team's argument that Section 2a itself violates of the First Amendment. “Nothing about Section 2a impedes the ability of members of society to discuss a trademark that was not registered by the PTO,” the opinion states. “Simply put, the court holds that cancelling the registrations of the Redskins marks ... does not implicate the First Amendment as the cancellations do not burden, restrict or prohibit [the team's] ability to use the marks.” The ruling won't go into effect until the team exhausts its appellate options, and does not prohibit the team from using the name or selling products incorporating the name.