Government agency rejects another “Redskins”-related trademark application

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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.

77 responses to “Government agency rejects another “Redskins”-related trademark application

  1. I really would like to know the answer to this question, How does changing the name of the Redskins help the Native Americans?

  2. Because if there is anyone that has selflessly done a good job representing Native American interests well and treating them right… It’s the US government…


  3. The court of public opinion is the media. Most Native American tribes don’t mind the term. Every poll I’ve seen doesn’t favor the so called “court of public opinion”. We have trouble brewing all over this planet and political idiots like PELOSI are concerned with this? Nothing to see here, move along. Priorities people.

  4. I’m 46 and in all those years there wasn’t any talk of the name being an issue. Fans want their team to have a “cool” name, one that stands for being tough.

    Why is it only now that this is a problem?

  5. I think the nickname is fine and should remain as is. And I’m not even a fan of the team. So may find it offensive, but most don’t, including many Native Americans.

  6. more of the government telling private citizens and companies what to do. congress and the rest of the government needs to stick to doing their jobs, and this isn’t it.

  7. While the Redskins name can be offensive, I find the real travesty being what the U.S. government did to the Native Americans much worse. This looks to me like a lot of commotion being created over the football organization name just to create a distraction from the bigger issue.

  8. The name is gonna change. You know it, I know it, Snyder knows it. Whether you like it or not, whether it’s right or wrong, it’s gonna change.

  9. Personally, if Bob Costas and his infinite wisdom is against the name, and as he stated has been for the past 25 years even though he’s just bringing it up since the media created this, I say change it!

    Too many people go through unnecessary trauma each Sunday seeing that logo/word. It’s time for a change.. /sarcasm

  10. The funny thing is the owners and league share revenue and the skins are the second most valuable franchise… yeaaa nfl.. imagine all that lost revenue from the loss of copyright protection. Even then who cares real fans will keep buying skins gear from the nfl shop/redskins store anyways. As long as it says redskins on it, fans will keep buying it

  11. It’s not supposed to refer to native americans but their mascot is a darkskinned native american. This has to be the dumbest franchise in all professional sports.

  12. That would kind defeat the entire purpose..

    Punish the team with the offensive trademark by mass producing and capitalizing sans penalties on that offensive trademark – causing further insult to the cause at hand.

    If I were Dan Snyder, I’d be on board with that – further shows how much support America has for Redskins merchandise.

  13. I don’t care anymore. I’m a life long Redskins fan, I always will be. I will always wear my Redskins gear. If the name is changed, I will still cheer for the D.C. team, I will still wear my Redskins gear, and I guess I will get new gear with the new team name as well. HTTR…

  14. Why do these articles continue to ignore the fact, as reported by the Wall Street Journal last fall, that “under federal trademark law, what matters is how a term was perceived at the time of registration, notes law professor Barton Beebe, a trademark scholar at New York University”?

    As such, this purported change in public opinion as of 2014 is wholly irrelevant. Then again, this legal reality doesn’t square with PFT’s position on the subject. Thus, it will most likely continue to be ignored in future articles about the name Redskins and federal trademark law.

  15. Florio is 100% correct. Ultimately, it will be a losing battle in the court of public opinion.
    Daniel Snyder can either recognize this quickly and find a suitable replacement name or he can go through years of hell in which support progressively erodes away.
    A smart owner would recognize that there is a problem and address it by identifying a suitable replacement name and logo. Unfortunately, too many Washington fans are emotionally invested to make a rational decision. The name Redskin is offensive to many native Americans. It belongs in the past.

  16. Wouldn’t the term “Indian” in Oneida Indian Nation be considered offensive? Natives of the Western Hemisphere have absolutely nothing to do with India. On the other hand, they actually do have reddish skin, relative to other peoples in the world. Why is it acceptable to call them something they are clearly not, but it isn’t acceptable to call them something they are?

  17. elsewhere in the world……russia is on the verge of starting ww3 and they are worried about this…and final four brackets…..

  18. I think you’ve hit on a brilliant compromise. Washington gets to keep the Redskins name, but must change their mascot and logo to a potato.

  19. Drop it florio. The status quo is changing. You’ll notice it in Washington DC this year. Hope and change are over. Time for ‘murica to be ‘Murica again

  20. “… it would allow anyone and everyone to sell items bearing the name without compensation. ”

    This sentence is 100% if the reason that people want the trademark revoked. It has NOTHING to do with Indians being “offended”, it has EVERYTHING to do with a money grab.

  21. It’s interesting how this term offends more and more people — the more it’s being repeatedly drummed into people’s heads how offended we should be.

  22. Who cares… plenty of fake and counterfeit NFL merchandise already floods the market already. Real fans will continue to buy gear on the NFL websites and authentic stores. I see fake and unofficial NFL merchandise all over in stores all the time. Won’t make that much of a difference. The Skins will be fine even IF the trademark protection is revoked. This won’t cause or make Dan change the name regardless.

  23. How is Redskins offensive? They were called Redskins for the simple fact that they painted their skin red during battle. So I guess painting your skin red is now offensive…..

  24. The Redskins continue to enjoy a large majority of support in the court of public opinion. As Mike knows they continue also to receive loyal support from many American Indians. As the Redskins continue to release letters of support from American Indians to the media on a weekly basis( which really irritates Mike), Florio calls those people ” unverified “.

    What is Snyder suppose to do? Ask for a blood sample along with their letter of support to the Redskins?

    Stay classy and verify these Mike:

    Hawthorne, vice president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association:

    “My opinion is that’s a name that not only the team should keep, but that’s a name that’s American.”

    Pete Mcdonald- Navajo Code talker:

    ” Go Redskins ! ”

    As far as Federal Trademark protection, with or without it, the Redskins would still enjoy common law trademark rights which are exclusive and enforceable, and Snyder would continue to rake in the millions.

    “The term “red” was adopted by French and English by the 1750′s after the reference to “red man” was made in 1725 by a Taensa chief. According to the French (1725), the Taensa referred to themselves as “Red Men.” Three chiefs of the Piankashaws wrote (1769), “…You think that I am an orphan; but all the people of these rivers and all the redskins will learn of my death.” In 1807 French Crow (Wahpekute, Santee Sioux) said, “I am a redskin…”

  25. Looks like the NFL and Snyder are nearing the finish line on this one. The folks in Ashburn should get the list compiled and have a fan vote for the new team name.

  26. Any opposition regarding their trademark will be met with years and years of legal red tape, appeals and so on… just like the last time someone tried this. Even IF the trademark is ever revoked they still won’t change the name. The Redskins have very smart attorneys all over this. No worries…

  27. If they were the Washington Whities I could care less. The brain washed PC crowd make me sick. Get your feelings off your shirtsleeve and stop looking to be offended. Guess what??? It’s NOT ABOUT YOU!!!! How freaking sad. People need to grow up and stop being so thin skinned.

  28. Ok so what will those who are so offended do when there’s not only a football team named Redskins.. But now there will be Redskins toilet paper, toothbrushes, couches, crayons for children, knife sets and the list goes on… Brilliant! You went from being offended by a pro football team to offended by household products which will show up everywhere. And just like you said, they still won’t change the name… Hail to the Redskins forever!

  29. Once again government forces something on the American people that they don’t want and didnt ask for.

  30. The redskins will not eventually lose in the court of public opinion.

    They will lose to faceless bureaucrats at the behest of liberal politicians who are ignoring public opinion and the opinion of a majority of the group that is supposed to be offended but isn’t.

  31. Hah, that would show Snyder. No way the NFL, and the 31 other owners, would allow a team to operate without a trademark. Merchandising would be a fiasco. On game day, the stadium would be surrounded by so many vendors, u wouldn’t be able to get to the stadium. Come on Snyder, the Bullets changed their name and look how successful…er, on second thought, keep the name.

  32. So removing the trademark protection will result in more products using this racial slur? Doesn’t sound like a win for decency if it will result in something like the plethora of “Red Neck” products and names. After all, however our Duck Dynasty loving white brethren accept and embrace it, “Red Neck” is a derogatory phrase for White people. Somehow this doesn’t seem like progress.

  33. Please show me where in our Constitution it says we cannot offend anyone or any group. Please show me in our Constitution where the oxymoron “Politically Correct” appears. I don’t know, but is there something in the guidelines of the Patent and Trademark office that says they have the right to deny a trademark because it offends a group. I would think that having that offended group not purchase the product would be enough.

  34. No one has yet explained how it helps the Native Americans if the Skins change their names. I think the people who claim to be offended are just looking for something to complain about.

  35. I don’t like the company name “Craker Barrel”, why don’t they do something about that?! It really hurts….

  36. All one has to do to gauge public opinion, is look at the thumbs up and down in this and similar posts.

  37. Disney used the word Redskins to refer to Indians in the 1953 movie “Peter Pan,” spoken by Capt Hook.

  38. The redskins will not eventually lose in the court of public opinion.

    They will lose to faceless bureaucrats at the behest of liberal politicians who are ignoring public opinion and the opinion of a majority of the group that is supposed to be offended but isn’t.

  39. What has the world come to when one or a handful find something wrong with something just to screw up the entire lot. We cannot get enough do gooders here in the US. I’m a life long fan and I’m sick of This argument now.
    I say go to the anniversary uniforms that have the spears on the helmets and call themselves the Washington Warriors! Be done with it and move on I guess. Pft will not have anything to report then.

    Obamas people can get back to lowering jail times for drug dealing felons and letting foreign countries trample all over us instead of sticking their smelly noses in the nfl.

  40. To those suggesting that the team name causes no harm to Native Americans, it’s worth considering that there is now empirical evidence in the form of published articles in refereed journals indicating that the use of Native American mascots and nicknames (particularly ones involving racial slurs) has a negative effect on the development of self-esteem and positive self-image of Native American children. If generally true, this effect can lead to diminished lives.

  41. Washington ” Redskins ” is not a slur, and self esteem comes from accomplishment.

    G. Anne Richardson, chief of Virginia’s Rappahannock Tribe, had to stifle a laugh when asked her feelings on the Redskins’ nickname.
    “I don’t have an issue with it,” she said. “There are so many more issues that are important for the tribe than to waste time on what a team is called. We’re worried about real things, and I don’t consider that a real thing. ”

    For more ” evidence “, try the 2004 Annenberg poll, regarding the name

  42. Pretty well any dictionary describes “redskins” as a racial slur. You can check this out with both hard-copy and online dictionaries, including those that specialize in slang.

    Although it is true that self-esteem can be gained by accomplishment, it can also be diminished by degrading comments and behavior from others. The social-science empirical evidence shows this clearly.

    Finally, the 2004 Annenberg poll is no longer regarded by social scientists as valid–far too out-of-date. Attitudes and sensibilities have changed in the intervening 10 years.

  43. Just to follow up on my first comment above (I don’t seem to be able to edit my comment), here’s a bit from the Wikipedia discussion of “Redskin”:

    “Redskin” is a racial descriptor of disputed origin for Native Americans. Although by some accounts not originally having negative intent,[1] the term is defined in current dictionaries of American English as “usually offensive”,[2] “disparaging”,[3][4] “insulting”,[5] “taboo” [6] and is avoided in public usage with the exception of its continued use as a name for sports teams.

  44. So, should the dictionary decide, or the people?

    “The term “red” was adopted by French and English by the 1750′s after the reference to “red man” was made in 1725 by a Taensa chief. According to the French (1725), the Taensa referred to themselves as “Red Men.” Three chiefs of the Piankashaws wrote (1769), “…You think that I am an orphan; but all the people of these rivers and all the redskins will learn of my death.” In 1807 French Crow (Wahpekute, Santee Sioux) said, “I am a redskin…”

    A page of a traditional history written in the Meskwaki language in 1914 by Charley H. Chuck (1867-1940). Indians are referred to as “e sa wi na me ska ta” and “mesgi na me ska ta” (lines 12-14) and Europeans are called “wa be ski na me ska ni tti ni” (lines 18-19). These are vernacular spellings of eesaawinameshkaata ‘one with brown skin’ and meeshkwinameshkaata ‘one with red skin’ (both meaning ‘Indian’), and waapeshkinameshkaanichini, an inflected form (called the obviative) of waapeshkinameshkaata ‘one with white skin, white person’.

    Maybe you should tell that group A Tribe called ” Red ” that they should quit singing their song ” Redskin Girl “, or maybe you’d like to go down to American Indian schools, like Red Mesa and Wellpinit that use ” Redskins ” for their team name, and tell them they’re offending themselves.

    The 1974 dictionary says Redskin – Native American

    The only thing that has changed since then is the media’s manufactured indignation.

    Gary Edwards ( Cherokee ), head of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation – ” I am a Redskin “

  45. The words in dictionaries ARE decided by the people. Dictionaries are not prescriptive; they’re descriptive of what words people are using, along with the emotive connotations that the words carry.

    Any dictionary published in 1974 will fail to indicate the current connotations of words, connotations that have developed over the past 40 years. Just about any 2014 dictionary will note the strong pejorative association of the term “redskin.” Most people see this word as roughly parallel to the n-word.

    And the media had absolutely nothing to do with that!

  46. The word being used in any negative way has virtually disappeared. You have to question the motivations of people who would attempt to suddenly inject a negative connotation into a teams name, when it was never there in the first place.

    The media has played a large part in that.

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