On January 18, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reinstated the Washington Redskins’ federal trademark registrations originally cancelled by the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board (“TTAB”) in 2014 in light of the Supreme Court’s (“SCOTUS”) ruling that disparaging trademarks are protected by freedom of speech under the First Amendment in Matal v. Tam.
Although the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia upheld the TTAB’s decision in Pro-Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse, et al. in July 2015 and Redskins ownership appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit, they also petitioned SCOTUS to have their case jointly heard alongside Tam. However, SCOTUS refused to hear the case, as Pro-Football, Inc. (“PFI”) had not yet exhausted their appeals before the lower courts. Nevertheless, PFI filed amicus briefs in support of the respondent, Simon Tam 1.
While the Fourth Circuit’s decision was not unexpected in light of the Tam decision, it has brought the recurring challenges to the REDSKINS marks that have spanned three decades to a final end.