On June 18, 2014, The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the Administrative Court of the US PTO for trademark cases, granted a petition to cancel six trademark registrations which consist of, in whole or in part, the term REDSKINS for professional football related services. The petition was brought by five Native Americans on the ground that the term REDSKINS was disparaging to Native Americans and, therefore, unregistrable under 15 USC 1052(a).
The Board, in a 2—1 decision, concluded that, based on the record before it, the term REDSKINS in the registered marks, when used in connection with services related to professional football, refers to Native Americans and that a substantial composite of Native Americans found the term to be disparaging to them, during the relevant time frame of 1967—1990, when the registrations involved in the cancellation proceeding issued. Based on these conclusions, the Board ordered that the six REDSKINS registrations be cancelled.
The Board’s decision made it clear that the decision to cancel the REDSKINS registrations concerns only the statutory right to registration under the federal Trademark Act and that the Board has no authority to issue rulings concerning the right to “use” the trademarks.
An appeal of the decision is likely, which appeal will be made either to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or by the filing of a civil action in a United States District Court.