WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — On Wednesday, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in favor of five petitioners that the term ‘Redskins’ is “disparaging” to Native Americans, and by a 2-1 vote, cancelled the Washington Redskins’ six federally protected trademarks using the term, pending appeal.
This is similar to a previous ruling on the term by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in 1999, when, by a 3-0 vote, the team also lost its trademark protections, a decision which was overturned in 2003.
It’s the opinion of Redskins attorney Bob Raskopf, that with the more recent ruling, the Redskins actually fared “better this time,” he told The Junkies on 106.7 The Fan on Thursday morning.
“Just like last time when this happened, although, we lost 3-0 last time,” Raskopf explained. “We did better this time.”
“The registrations are still valid. They’re not cancelled. We own them,” he insisted. “We can enforce them. Nothing’s changed, and it won’t change until this is over, and we think when it’s over, we’re gonna win just like we did last time.”
“I think everybody should know this,” he said. “These are valid and subsisting trademarks. They are protectable just like any other trademark is, and the trademark registrationists says nothing of our common law rights, which we also own, whether or not this case goes the wrong way. And, since we have one of the most valuable brands in sports, we can enforce our rights even without our trademarks, but we prefer to have our registrations because we’re entitled to them, and we will do what it takes to keep them.”
Raskopf, asked if he personally would call a Native American a ‘Redskin,’ deflected in his response.
“Well, that’s interesting that you would say that,” he said. “I understand that word isn’t in use as much as it once was, that’s not what this case is about.”
“It’s what our word means,” he continued. “And if you look at those dictionaries that are in this case, in evidence, every one of them defines ‘Redskin’ as — almost every one of them, maybe one doesn’t or two — as ‘a North American Indian.’ It’s how you use it, it’s not whether you use it. You need to put the word in context. Once you get the context, this case falls apart in two seconds for them. And that’s where we’re standing. We’re standing on that ground.”
Following up, host John-Paul Flaim said, “So what you’re saying is, there’s a context when it can be used as a slur, but the context of the Redskins organization is not of a slur, but as a term meaning Native American?”
“That’s right,” Raskopf said. “It may or may not be used disparagingly, just like many other terms can. So we don’t really think there’s much to that claim, and once you cross the tiny little line that needs to be crossed and realize that we, the Washington Redskins, have made something honorable and successful and imbued that into this brand, there’s no way that anyone can say that we use that mark disparagingly. It’s a mark. What trademark law’s all about.”
Raskopf’s answers mirrored the Redskins official response to the ruling, which, in part, stated in bold:
“We’ve seen this story before. And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.”