Redskins

Redskins Appeal Trademark Decision on Team Name in Federal Court

by Brian McNally
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File photo of a Washington Redskins helmet. (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

File photo of a Washington Redskins helmet. (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Brian McNally Brian McNally
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ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins have filed an appeal in federal court to overturn a June 18 decision by the United States Trademark Trial and Appeals Board to cancel some of the team’s trademarks.

The Redskins lost federal protection of six of their trademarks after the board ruled 2-to-1 that their name was disparaging to Native Americans. Because no action will be taken until the appeals process is complete, the organization faces no financial losses right now. All federal trademarks remain in effect.

“We believe that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ignored both federal case law and the weight of the evidence, and we look forward to having a federal court review this obviously flawed decision,” Bob Raskopf, trademark attorney for the Redskins, said in a statement.

The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Team’s lawyers will argue that Native Americans during the time period relevant to this case – 1967 to 1990 – did not consider the name “Redskins” to be disparaging or offensive.

The Redskins claim that the federal judge assigned to the appeal can disregard the board’s decision and weigh that evidence on his or her own. Team lawyers will also argue that the board violated First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights in its ruling.

“The Washington Redskins look forward to all of the issues in the case being heard in federal court under the federal rules of evidence,” Raskopf said. “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.”

A similar ruling by the Trademark board in 1999 against trademark protection for the Redskins name was overturned on appeal in part because a federal judge ruled the plaintiffs had waited too long to file the case. It was filed again in 2006 with younger Native Americans listed as the plaintiffs.

The Eastern District of Virginia was the fastest in the country at moving cases to trial as of 2013. It averaged just 11.1 months vs. 23.8 for all other federal courts. Any further appeals would likely be heard at the United State 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

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