On Washington name, same ruling was issued 15 years ago


When Washington president Bruce Allen said “we’re fine” in response to the news that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the team’s legal protection against knock-offs and other infringers, he may or may not have been thinking about 1999.

Fifteen years ago, the same ruling was issued by the same body, seven years after a challenge to the name was filed.  A higher tribunal ultimately scuttled the conclusion, based on the legal doctrine of “standing,” which relates to one’s ability to file legal claims.

This time around, the plaintiffs believe they’ll prevail on that point.  Even if they do, the appeal could overturn the ruling on other grounds.  So it’s all still very preliminary.

Besides, if Allen was able to declare victory in response to the Harry Reid hashtag debacle, saying “we’re fine” with a straight face now should be an easy sell.

This difference this time comes from the surrounding debate on the name.  In 1999, the opposition was far less organized and mainstream.  In 2014, the opposition has coalesced and assumed a sense that it will last until the name inevitably changes.

The name will change once the opposition finds a tipping point that compels Commissioner Roger Goodell to gather a few key owners and persuade Snyder that it’s time to flash the victory sign and get on the helicopter.  While today’s ruling may not be the tipping point, it could very well spark it, possibly through the decision of major sponsors to begin ending their relationship with the team or the league.

51 responses to “On Washington name, same ruling was issued 15 years ago

  1. But how will Goodell and these other owners intend to persuade a man who has already said “over my dead body”? Those people can’t even figure out how to construct an intelligent CBA or rulebook, how are they going to finagle a complicated issue with somebody who has such a firm position? I’d like to see that happen.

  2. First off, I think it’s sensible and appropriate for the Redskins to change their name.

    That said, is anyone certain that federal registration is the only way to protect the name? I recall a common-law trademark doctrine that applied to unregistered trademarks, and also suspect that state unfair competition or other laws could be deployed. That said, it’s been a long time since I took trademarks. Anyone with more relevant knowledge care to chime in?

  3. Short answer (limited internet research, YMMV), yes, they can still enforce the name rights in state court, at least in the U.S. It’s possible this decision has not real practical significance, even if upheld.

  4. Cowboys have to go since they fought the Indians. Chiefs is offensive to any Indian not a chief. Patriots started the problems with the Indians so thy must go as well.

    More from the look at me I’m a victim of everything crowd.

  5. Why does the liberal media run this country?

    Why can’t Americans think for themselves anymore?

    This is a sad day when I realized this country will end up as 1984 before we know it.

  6. Native American owned Western Sky Financial charging 355% interest on their loans is much more offensive to me than the name of Washington’s NFL franchise.

  7. Like NFLORACLE, I am sick of this nonesense. As much as one wonders if our government has something better to do than hound an NFL team’s choice of mascot, I wonder if native Americans have something better to do with their time than cry about said mascot. We have become a nation of whiners who can’t be happy unless we’re miserable

  8. What happen to “sticks and stones can break my bones but WORDS will never hurt me”? What kind of tender footed wussies are in this country now days. Sickening. Bunch of cry babies. This team has had this name generations and some sissy’s come along and pout and want them to change? What about the other 410 million who want it to stay the way it is. This is a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC not a DEMOCRACY like those disinformation queens like to confuse people with.

  9. They should petition to change the name “Yankees”. I’m a northerner who’s offended. Also change the name “Mets” it’s offensive to baseball fans across the country and an embarrassment to the game itself.

  10. I think it’s time for me to find a different site to get my football info. The agenda being pushed here is getting tiresome.

  11. 22 years ago they filed a complaint about the team name. (Took them 7 years to rule on it? What. The. Hell.)

    But Redskin supporters keep saying the opposition to the team name is only recent?!?!?

  12. Sensible to change the name? Why? It was fine years ago, what’s different? A group of people want to be politically correct about EVERYTHING in this country??

    What’s next, PETA coming after the Jaguars, Colts, Broncos, Cards, Seahawks, Eagles, Bears, Ravens, Bengals, Dolphins, Lions, Rams, Falcons, Panthers? Or a group of true Cowboys going after Jerry Jones because their terrible product is offensive to true cowboys? Seriously, where does this tuff end?

  13. MOST people polled INCLUDING Native Americans don’t want the name changed. This just goes to show that the media can make an issue out of almost anything.

    The poll released by Public Policy Polling on Thursday found that 71% do not think the team should change its name, while 18% said the team should change it and 11% said they are not sure. The firm surveyed 741 registered voters through automated phone interviews and the margin of error is plus or minus 3.6%.

    “The results of this poll are solidly in line with the message we have heard from fans and Native Americans for months — our name represents a tradition, passion and heritage that honors Native Americans,” the team said in a statement. “We respect the point of view of the small number of people who seek a name change, but it is important to recognize very few people agree with the case they are making.”

  14. Three separate links on this one story so far? Seriously?

    It’d be great if we as a country were moved to get the govt to put more teeth into laws on drunk driving or child abuse or spousal abuse or murders where people are tangibly hurt as we do to take up the cause of a naming issue. And it would be great if the media took up these tangible injury/death causes with as much gusto as they do a naming issue.

  15. So, in other words, till the lawyers, appeals, and courts get done… This is a nothing story.

  16. What will happen when the name finally changes? About 20 minutes of feel good time for Indians and PC politicians hitching their name to the debacle….then it’s on to the next thing. Let’s waste Congress’s time imposing our will on the Cleveland Indians next! Those racist bastards! Give me a break.

  17. Tipping point indicates a level of closeness….based on every poll, we are no where close to a “tipping point”.
    This shouldn’t be a surprise as you don’t consider 80% to be a vast majority either.
    If it was 51% in favor of a name change, I bet you would be calling it a majority and using it as a reason for the name change.

    Stop blowing things so far out of proportion, while technically not lying it paints a far from accurate picture.

  18. Snyder is a smart and rich business man, if the rules of the trademark rights change, then he will adapt to make the most out of the situation and just posture that his team has a unique brand that is marketed more freely than any other sports brand and that’s only to his advantage as Bruce Allen will explain it to you later.

    And if others come up with neat ideas of what sales methods and efforts they want to undertake, then I guess Snyder can look for other unofficial ways to sell things. Maybe there’s ways to do some sales activities while now cutting the NFL out of the action. The NFL won’t mind that he does that because he might have special legal powers to market what he wants to market and how he wants to market it that other owners don’t get to enjoy. Maybe these changes will help him find new loopholes to play through. After all, it’s just a game right?

    I’m not sure what the scoreboard reads from this far away, but either way in this arena the 12th man is the sound of Dan Snyder chuckling like he has this one in the bag. All you NFL fans asked for more audio noise, now you got it.

  19. Snyder will gather his attorneys to comb over (not Trump’s hair) the evidence – that is, the pros and cons of how it affects the BOTTOMLINE, then he’ll move.

    He will at least begin an appeal that can be withdrawn after everything is weighed. After all, years of appeals mean tons of attorneys fees.

    Maybe Flores is correct. Maybe he should don a uniform and proclaim MISSION ACCOMPLISHED in front of a banner. That always works.

  20. Whats the next point to be made. “Children are watching football and learning how to be racist. I heard they wont donate mouthwash to the food shelfs.”

  21. I don’t see the big concern for Dan Snyder. All he has to do is get the NFL to put their logo on their game jerseys/team merch & the redskins will be able to sell official merch that no one else could because you know the NFL will go after anyone attempting to sell unlicensed NFL merch in order to “protect the shield”.

  22. “I think it’s time for me to find a different site to get my football info. The agenda being pushed here is getting tiresome.”

    Amen – These guys, the WAPO, all have a real agenda in this… crazy.

  23. “tlw109 says:
    Jun 18, 2014 11:54 AM
    I think it’s time for me to find a different site to get my football info. The agenda being pushed here is getting tiresome.”
    Completely agree. Normally this site is great, but its times like this when they become so biased on a subject, they turn the site from a news site into their own personal blog.

  24. As USA Today wrote last month, “If the team were applying for federal trademark protection for its “Redskins” name today, it would almost certainly be denied: At least 12 times since 1992 the USPTO has refused to register such marks on disparagement grounds, including seven applications from the Washington team (for terms such as “Redskins Fanatics” and “Redskins Rooters”) and one from NFL Properties (for “Boston Redskins”).”

  25. I’m glad this is going to be a legal battle for many years to come. Lawyers need to put food on the table.

  26. Looks like Cracker Barrel and Cracker Jacks have to change their name too. It offensive to the white man…..oops, Caucasian….don’t want to offend anyone……

  27. Racism is no different for an NBA owner sitting in his living room being taped illegally than it is for an NFL owner who swears to be racist til he dies. Doesn’t history repeat itself as George Preston Marshall, former Redskin owner, said he would never sign a black, over his dead body. Why does the team that represents the nations Capitol have the worst blatant record of violating civil rights. The history of the Redskin is written in filth. I guess blacks are trendy and Native Americans just aren’t cool enough to force the right thing. Snyder should be embarrassed, but everyone who thinks this is a non-issue should be horse-whipped.

  28. “What happens when the name finalky changes?”

    The Personhood of the Perpetually Offended will go looking for the next thing to be overly offended by.

  29. Its amazing how some idiots think that just because the minority screams at the top of their lungs over the majority that the opinion they hold is the correct one. If you’re so offended by D.C.’s “Redskins” name and the abuse that native Americans have received in the past. Why don’t you make a real difference and give the land you own back to them or sell it at a low cost that will make people say that you really do care about righting the wrong that they suffered.

  30. Excellent news! Finally an agency stands up to Danny Boy and the NFL. Now let’s work on replacing lord Goodell and bring in Adam Silver as commish

  31. Since we’re the small majority people who want to keep the Redskins name, why aren’t our voices heard?

  32. I can see both sides of the name argument but what I find funny is that if Snyder had been smarter about handling this he could have made more money AND looked like the good guy. He finds some Native American group to work with him and comes up with some new name, maybe naming directly after a tribe like the Seminoles or Blackhawks. That brings in positive publicity plus a mint in sales of the new gear. Meanwhile, there’d have been a huge buying rush on the old gear.

  33. The higher courts have never ruled against the substance of the accusation, i.e., that the term “redskin” is NOT offensive. So bear that in mind. No court has ever agreed with the NFL and Washington that it was okay under federal law to trademark the term. What happened in the past is that the courts kicked the case on another ancillary legal issue. In football terms, the courts have “punted” on the issue in the past. There is a law that says that the Trademark and Patent people don’t trademark racist or offensive brands. Snyder and the NFL should have realized they were exposed legally a long time ago and done something voluntarily to protect themselves. Now the NFL and Washington franchise both stand to lose a ton of money.

  34. Regardless of whether someone does or does not want the name changed, it is clear that the political climate has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Citing a previous finding and subsequent court reversal is not very sure footing. Separate but Equal was a Supreme Court defended legal doctrine for a long time until Brown v Board of Ed came along.

    More and more it is appearing this is a matter of WHEN, rather than IF, the name is changed. There is blood in the water and the sharks are circling…..

  35. I’m no lawyer, but doesn’t this fall under the 1st Amendment of Freedom of Speech?! If I want to call them the Washington Redskins, I should be able too. It’s up to my “customers” (aka Fans) to decide if they would like to support me by paying to get it. Which, if you put a good team on the field, they will pay!

  36. Hate speech, which is really what any racist language falls under, is NOT protected by the first amendment. You can say whatever you want, but there are consequences for using hate speech.

  37. This is about the government taking action to protect your trademark in civil commerce. The government is able to set the rules about when they will act on behalf of your commercial interests and when they won’t. First Amendment doesn’t come into it. You can say whatever you want (free speech), but don’t expect the government to protect your profits if what you say is offensive. And I am a lawyer.

  38. I have said it before once the advertisers pull their products and marketing from the team/NFL that’s when the name and Snyder will change their tune. Follow the money.Red skin has been a derogatory comment in every western since John Wayne walked in lifts.
    Why is it I am to believe the Gov’t is infringing on my rights, and this is part of the liberal plot to undermine America on this topic but Raise the flag and sing Battle Hymn of the republic when my son goes off to fight for millionaires like Snyder? let him put the helmet on and carry the flag…..follow the money..and call em the Skins …who cares if they’re black white or red anyway

  39. What’s with all this talk about PC. What about morally correct? Let’s not confuse the two.

  40. Anyone whose followed this story knows it was brought up in 1999 as well as in 1992 and the similarities with the time frame are consistent with the same reasons its been brought up in 2012-2013.
    The Redskins were relevant, popular, and contenders, and it was unlikely you heard this issue unless they mattered.

    1992: Washington was coming off their last SB.

    1999-2000; Norv Turner leads Wash. to the divisional round of the playoffs where the lost to TB. with the 2nd best offense next to St.Louis. Expectations rise to the point of SB aspirations hence the following offseason Wash. signs Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders along with many others as a result of the Dan Snyder and another one of his big offseason spending sprees. They’re all over the news and as a result the issue is brought up again.

    2012 – Washington drafts RG3. He’s already made a name for himself in college, couple that with the successful 2012 campaign and his media exposure Washington is again thrust into the spotlight. Thus the name issue is again up for debate.

    There is a reason you didn’t hear about the Redskins name change in ’95 when Gus Frerotte was leading them to a 6-10 mark, or in 2003 when Tim Hasselback was getting shutout at home vs the Cowboys as they went 5-11 or in 2010 when everyone made of the fact that Rex Grossman was turning the ball over 4 times a game as they sat in the cellar of the NFC east, no one cared about the team and these so called activists who seemed to care about the rights and feeling of the Native Americans were nowhere to be found during these times.

    Changing the team name will not help Native Americans who are living in poverty in their reservations, nor will help problems like drug and alcohol and spousal abuse that can plague some areas nor help improve education and their employment rate. You’re just inflating and encouraging the ego’s of those who do a great job of putting up a facade of how much they care about their cause when its all a front to push wack ideals that seem to have good intentions but in the end are hollow.

  41. I find it amazing that parts of the government are seeming to be concerned with the feelings of Native Americans, while at the same time completely ignoring the vast majority of Native American’s feelings on the subject

  42. Redskins, Redskins, Redskins , Redskins, Redskins , Redskins, Redskins. Oh, and one more thing….REDSKINS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.