WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a long-shot appeal from the Washington Redskins challenging a law that bars offensive trademarks, although the justices could still resolve the same issue in another pending case.
The court turned away the team’s unusual request to have its case heard before a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, weighs in. The Redskins are appealing the government’s decision to cancel its trademarks over concerns the nickname disparages Native Americans.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said the team would not comment.
In a separate case, the justices will decide whether the trademark law violates the First Amendment. That case involves The Slants, an Asian-American rock band that was denied a trademark on the ground that its name disparages Asians.
A federal appeals court sided with the band. The Redskins wanted both cases heard together.
Both the team and the band argue that it is unconstitutional for the government to reject trademark rights for offensive speech.
Band member Simon Tam has said he wanted to transform a derisive term about the shape of Asian eyes into a statement of ethnic and cultural pride. The Redskins have similarly claimed their name honors Native Americans, but the team has faced years of legal challenges from Indian groups that say the name is racist.
Despite a lot of attention to the nickname and public pressure to change it, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has said he never would agree to a switch.
Even without trademark protection, the Redskins can continue using their nickname. But the team could lose money by being unable to block the sale of counterfeit merchandise by suing competitors that infringe on the trademark.
The team registered six trademarks including the name from 1967 to 1990.
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