Washington launches appeal of USPTO decision

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In June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office determined, via its Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, that the trademarks held by the Washington NFL franchise should be cancelled.  On Thursday, the team filed its appeal.

Technically a new action filed in federal court, the team hopes for the same outcome that a federal judge reached when considering the same decision made by the USPTO in 1999.

“The Washington Redskins look forward to all of the issues in the case being heard in federal court under the Federal Rules of Evidence.  The team is optimistic that the court will correctly and carefully evaluate the proofs, listen to the arguments, and confirm the validity of the Washington Redskins’ federal trademark registrations, just as another federal court has already found in a virtually identical case,” attorney Bob Raskopf said.

The lawyers representing the citizens who filed the attack on the team’s name are equally confident.

“We have been thinking about this stage of the case. We are prepared. And we are prepared with some surprises,” attorney Jesse Witten told USA Today.

The Change the Mascot campaign issued a statement that focuses not on the legalities but on the right-or-wrong question of whether the name should remain in place.

“The National Football League claims it has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to racism, but by continuing to fight a court battle defending its promotion of a dictionary-defined racial slur, the league makes clear it is a proud purveyor of bigotry against Native Americans,” the group said.  “If the league genuinely cared about equality, civility and mutual respect, then it would stand on the right side of history with Native American organizations, civil rights groups, religious leaders, sports icons, and Members of Congress from both parties who have called for Washington’s team to change its name.  It would not continue deploying its army of lawyers to clog the courts with increasingly desperate defenses of a racial epithet.  The real question this latest appeal raises is simple:  Why are the NFL and the Washington team so pathologically committed to continuing to slur Native Americans?”

The answer possibly comes from, of all places, TMZ.  Based on the court documents obtained by TMZ (and cited nowhere else, as best we can tell), the league and the team believe that “Redskin” and “redskin” are two entirely different terms.

“Even if the term ‘redskin,’ used in singular, lower case form, refers to an ethnic group, the term is not disparaging when employed as a proper noun, as a team name, in the context of professional football,” the team argues in its official filing, according to TMZ.

While that language-based distinction may explain the zealous efforts to defend the ongoing use of the term, that same reasoning would apply to any offensive term that has its first letter capitalized, transforming it from a slur to a proper noun.

37 responses to “Washington launches appeal of USPTO decision

  1. Thank God! Good luck Redskins.

    Here’s the thing, I don’t necessarily agree with all of these teams being named after this group of people, and especially not that it is in a derogatory way of any nature.

    With that said, I don’t see how ANY of these teams can roll over and give in. These teams, Franchises have history. History that you and I grew up with. That history should not be jeopardized because something that wasn’t an issue years ago is now finally scratching it’s way to the surface because this nation has become so PC that they think it suits them now to do so.

    If the Redskins get the axe(truly no pun intended), then who’s to say that the Blackhawks, Indians, Chiefs, etc all lose their naming rights as well? Something has to be done to stop all this madness.

    Soapbox, stepped down from

  2. This should fade after the elections take place. Politicians are just riding the wave caused by less than 1% of Americans. This goes against PFTs political input so delete away censors.

  3. Prior to taking this stance, the USPTO received exactly zero complaints regarding this team name. Someone with Harry Reid’s clout could abuse their authority and orchestrate something like this to serve their own agenda. Good luck in your fight Dan.

  4. Good for the Redskins! Stand your ground. I briefly worked with a Native American gentleman yesterday. Our casual conversation turned to football and I couldn’t resist asking him how he feels about the Redskins name. He replied that it “didn’t bother him at all” and he didn’t know anyone that was bothered by it. NON-ISSUE.

  5. Arbitrary, and without merit. They don’t have the authority to do this w/o a trial. But if you’re a lib it’s OK to break the law, just so you do it the lib way.

  6. There are many more pressing problems to be concerned about for those who masquerade as our public servants. More like public serpents.

  7. Language-based distinctions do matter. At times, changing a single letter makes all of the difference in the world. Would Donte Whitner really be looking into dropping the first letter of his last name, had his name instead been Donte Whitler??

  8. They are the Washington football playing Redskins always have been the Washington football playing Redskins and always will be the Washington football playing Redskins. And no amount of PC will ever change that. PERIOD! Enuf said?

  9. Seen the youtube video? The most powerful statement for me is when the Native American says that “They’ve never asked Native Americans. It’s always someone else trying to speak for us”

    That has been my point all along.

    Those who you are trying to “protect”, don’t want your “protection” and overwhelmingly support the Washington Redskins team and the name.

    Until that changes, all your arguments fail.

    Are we going to again impose our will on Native Americans for “their own good”.

    As my father-in-law used to say: Nothing is so terrible as something done to you for “your own good”.

  10. The tired old dictionary argument to make the name a slur. Enough.

    The context which a word is used has a great deal to do with its meaning. In other words, redskin could be offensive if used a certain way but in this context it is simply the name of a football team.

    Besides, as a free society we the people define what is and is not acceptable, not Webster.

    Another opinion: From Oxford dictionary
    Redskin referred not to the natural skin color of the Delaware, but to their use of vermilion face paint and body paint.

  11. Hmm, interesting that the Redskins are putting so much faith in the previous appeal. As if the previous appeal was decided on the merits of the suit, i.e., whether the term ‘Redskins’ is a racial slur or not.

    That 1999 appeal was upheld on a ‘technical’ finding that the people bringing the PTO action did not have ‘standing’ to do so. It had NOTHING to do with whether the term ‘Redskins’ was derogatory or not.

    This latest PTO action was brought by people who DO have ‘standing’ (i.e., they are Native Americans, not a bunch of white guy lawyers like the 1999 attempt).

  12. (I’m not a fan of the team. And I don’t support changing the name, because I believe the whole debate amounts to political grandstanding)

    That said…

    1) To say that ‘Redskin’ (proper noun) and ‘redskin’ (noun) are substantively different words is a load of lawyer double talk bull crap.

    2) To say that “…the same reasoning would apply to any offensive term that has its first letter capitalized (transforms) it from a slur to a proper noun” is obviously not what the Washington Redskins legal team is arguing. Clearly, a racial slur can be capitalized or not, and still be offensive. I won’t bother going into the minutia of basic sentence structure and English grammar, but I will give an example:

    – Racial slur: “Get over here, n-word” N-word not capitalized, and it’s a racial slur

    – Racial Slur: “N-word, get over here!” N-word is capitalized, and still a racial slur

    3) (This is the most important bit). What the Washington Redskins legal team is trying to say (poorly) is that Redskins (capitalized) is not a racial slur BECAUSE OF THE CONTEXT OF ITS MEANING!

    Determining whether any word (including ‘redskin’) is a slur has nothing to do with whether it’s capitalized. It’s a matter of context and (to a lesser extent) intent – no different than any other word in any language every spoken or written.

    It’s similar to the n-word: Yes, it’s a racial slur in some context, and no, it’s not a racial slur in some other context.

    Arguing that a football team’s name is a racial slur completely ignores the dynamic of context and intent…a dynamic that the PC crowd obviously is well aware of yet totally ignores.

  13. Your example of capitalization is fallacious. Your second example is capitalized because it is the first word in a sentence. Redskins is capitalized because it is a name.

    Redskins is not like N-word.
    1) Even you write out the word Redskins, but refuse to write out the other.
    2) There are High Schools with a large majority of Native American students who have chosen (and recently reconfirmed their use of the Redskins name. There is no chance that a mostly African-American school would choose the N-word as their name.

    Your point 3 is absolutely the point. Many other words can be used as a slur, even if the word isn’t inherently a slur. I can come up with several easily, and I am sure you can come up with many yourself.

  14. I hope the Redskins prevail. If they fail then the PC police should go after most teams. Based on someone somewhere might be offended, they should also change the Browns, Chiefs, Indians, Yankees, and Fighting Irish team names. I am sure I missed a few.

    Browns- Call someone Brownie they take offense.
    Chief- Call an NA a Chief they take offense.
    Indian- an Indian is from India the PC thing is Native American.
    Notre Dame is an obviously sterotype, you would never name an expansion team the Dumb Polish or Smelly French.

  15. The derogatory meaning of Redskins was and is outdated, as Bob Costas stated when he said he didn’t know it was offensive until he looked it up in the dictionary. The Washington Redskins are a different story, use a more modern method and do a web search for redskin and what comes up is the Washington Redskins Football Team, who’s name and depiction is for proud warriors. No one would name any team after a derogatory term.

    It may have been offensive as depicted by old Hollywood movies, but so was the word Indian, probably even more so, by the same studios. Are we basing our history as a country by what Hollywood depicts? If so, no wonder the this country has so many real problems.

  16. The USPTO said that the team name was “disparaging of Native Americans”. If it is so disparaging why does a high school that is 100% Native American have the mascot of Redskin? Do you think you would see a high school with 100% black people called the N words? What about a high school that was filled with 100% of any nationality called a term that was “Disparaging” to the nationality.

    Just imagine what good the people fighting this case could do for say the rampant drug problems on indian reservations. Imagine the good these people cold do by initiating scholarships for Native Americans.

    What is that you say. The Washington Redskins do that. Why don’t the people that are spending the Indian Nations money do the same thing instead of on this?

  17. im just like any other redskins fan. i aint got the most sense but i love my team. dont change the name.

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