The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) cancelled six registrations for marks consisting in whole or in part of the term REDSKINS 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 (between 1967 and 1990).
The Board found that when used in connection with football services, REDSKINS retains the meaning of “Native American.” Videos of football games, newspapers, and press guides created between 1967 and 1990 established that the respondent “made continuous efforts to associate its football services with Native American imagery.”
The Board also found that dictionary definitions of “redskin” published prior 1967 and during the relevant time period established that there was “a clear trend” to label the term “redskin” as offensive and that by 1986, the dictionaries unanimously labeled the term as offensive.
The Board then considered statements and resolutions from members of the National Congress of American Indians (“NCAI”) which represented approximately thirty percent of Native Americans during the relevant time period. When considering whether a term is disparaging, a “substantial composite” of the referenced group is required, not a majority. In 1993, the NCAI passed a resolution voicing its continuous opposition to the registration of the REDSKINS marks. Even though the resolution was passed after 1990, the Board found that it was a group statement about views held during the relevant time period. Further, the NCAI had protested each registration of the mark from 1967 to 1990. Because the petitioners’ evidence demonstrated that the NCAI represented at least thirty percent of Native Americans during the relevant time period, the Board agreed that a substantial composite of Native Americans find the mark disparaging.
Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Philip Grover, Jillian Pappan, and Courtney Tsotigh v. Pro-Football, Inc., Cancellation No. 92046185 (TTAB June 18, 2014) [precedential].