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Bruce Allen claims “we’re fine” after Redskins lose trademark case

Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, left, talks with general manager Bruce Allen during the afternoon practice at NFL football training camp in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)


Washington Redskins President Bruce Allen is claiming that all is well after the team lost its trademark in a ruling handed down today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Asked whether the Redskins can continue to use their name, Allen told Mark Maske of the Washington Post, “We’re fine. We’re fine.”

As a legal matter, Allen is correct: The trademark issue does not compel the Redskins to change their name or logo. It just says they no longer have the right to federal trademark protection on their name and logo.

But as a practical matter, this could turn out to be the tipping point on this issue: If the Redskins lose their appeal of this ruling and therefore lose their trademark for good, anyone can sell cheap “Redskins” gear without paying to license the products. That would mean all those Redskins shirts and hats and other officially licensed gear would no longer need to be officially licensed. It could be sold anywhere, by anyone. And losing the exclusive right to sell Redskins shirts and hats and other gear would be costly.

Could Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who insists that he will never change the name, afford to lose that money? Yes. But even if Snyder is so devoted to the Redskins name that he’s willing to lose money over it, losing the ability to trademark the name wouldn’t just cost Snyder money. It would also cost the other teams, and the NFL’s merchandising partners, money. Snyder’s fellow owners aren’t going to stand for that.

Ultimately, the Redskins are “fine” only in the sense that they haven’t immediately lost their battle to keep their name. Where the Redskins aren’t fine is that in the long run, this ruling represents the biggest challenge yet to Snyder. And even if Snyder is willing to keep fighting, the time is likely to come when his fellow owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sit him down and tell him that the fight isn’t just about the Redskins logo. It’s also about the NFL Shield that Goodell cares so much about. And if Snyder’s stubbornness is hurting the league as a whole, he’s going to be forced to change, whether that change comes from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or not.