The Washington Redskins’ ongoing battle to try to preserve its’ “Redskins” trademark was dealt a serious blow, and Washington appears to be at grave risk of losing its trademark rights in the iconic team name, because of a federal court decision issued today.
Several years ago, a Native American named Amanda Blackhorse commenced an administrative proceeding with the litigation branch of the United States Patent and Trademark Office called the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), by which Ms. Blackhorse challenged the Redskins trademark. In June 2014, the TTAB ruling in favor of Ms. Blackhorse and cancelled six Redskins trademarks owned by the Washington team, finding that Washington could not have trademark rights in the “Redskins” name because such name was offensive and disparaging.
Washington appealed the TTAB ruling. On July 8, 2015, a federal district judge in Virgina upheld the TTAB decision. An article discussing the district judge’s decision can be found here: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/washington-redskins-mascot-trademarks-cancelled
Losing trademark rights in the “Redskins” name would be a huge problem for the Washington team. According to the Washington Post, Washington’s lawyers assessed the team’s value at $2.4 billion in August 2014, with $214 million tied to brand management and the Redskins brand. So an appeal from the district judge’s decision is likely if not inevitable. It should be noted that Washington lost trademark rights in the “Redskins” name in the Trademark Office in 1999, but was able to regain the rights through court litigation. So even though Washington is behind, the game is only in the third quarter and there still is a lot of litigation left – stay tuned!