As the Washington Redskins continue to fight what eventually will be a losing battle in the court of public opinion over the question of whether the team’s nickname is sufficiently offensive to require a change, the franchise eventually could be forced to act due to the outcome of an effort in a court of law.
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has rejected another trademark application containing the term; “Washington Redskins Potatoes” won’t receive federal trademark protection. The product doesn’t include “redskin potatoes,” which makes the term “Redskins” when used in that context inappropriate, in the opinion of the agency.
“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols,” the agency ruled, via a press release distributed by the Oneida Indian Nation. “Given that ‘REDSKIN’ in the mark is a derogatory slang term that refers to, and is considered offensive by, American Indians, registration of the applied-for mark must be refused.”
The agency, which previously declined trademark protection for the term “Redskins Hog Rinds” on similar grounds, is considering revoking the NFL football team’s federal trademark protection. The fact that the two Redskins-related trademarks were rejected based not on infringement on the Redskins trademark but on the offensive nature of the term doesn’t bode well for the franchise.
While the loss of trademark protection wouldn’t force a name change, it would allow anyone and everyone to sell items bearing the name without compensation. The more third parties that market Redskins-related items, the more the team’s own goods will be diluted.