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The Washington Redskins May Have Lost the Battle …

Posted on Jun 25, 2014 in Blog

On June 19, 2014, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (PTO TTAB) canceled six trademark registrations owned by the Washington NFL club, ruling that the term “Redskins” was disparaging to a substantial composite of American Indians when the marks were granted between 1967 and 1990.

The 2-1 ruling does not immediately strip the Washington Redskins organization of its federal trademark protection, as the club is allowed to retain such protection during an expected appeal. If the club loses on appeal, the Redskins mark would no longer enjoy the benefits of federal registration, including the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court. The club can continue to assert its trademark rights under common law and state statues. Moreover, the club can continue to use the name, as it has since 1933, when the Club changed its name from the Boston Braves to the Boston Redskins.

Accordingly, the PTO TTAB decision alone may not greatly affect the value of the Washington NFL club’s nickname or mandate a change of the club’s name. Also the ruling does not affect the club’s federal copyrighted logo. Any change in the club’s name will more likely come from political pressure or loss in advertising revenue.

The ramifications of this decision highlight the complexity of intellectual property rights. Such rights may be available under patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret laws at one or both of the federal and state levels. It is beneficial to discuss with your intellectual property attorney what value can be created from your ideas under the various intellectual property protections available.

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