Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

U.S. Patent and Trademark office cancels protection of Washington team name

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 22: A Redskins flag is displayed before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 22, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Whenever the government gets involved in the question of whether the Washington NFL team should change its name, people who support the current name ask whether the government has anything better to do. For one specific agency of the government, the answer is a resounding no.

That’s the same one-word response the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has supplied regarding the question of whether the name should continue to enjoy federal trademark protection. Via the Washington Post, the agency has canceled the registration, calling the name “disparaging to Native Americans.”

“This victory was a long time coming and reflects the hard work of many attorneys at our firm,” attorney Jesse Witten of Drinker Biddle & Reath told the Post.

It was indeed a long time coming, with the first challenge to the name filed back in 1992. The initial case failed on a technicality that the plaintiffs believe has been remedied in this case.

Moving forward, appeals are certain and lawyers will get paid and the issue won’t be settled for months if not years. In the interim, the ruling will serve only to give more momentum to the increasingly loud and persuasive voices that oppose the name.

If the name, after all appeals, is deemed to not be protected by trademark laws, anyone and everyone will be able to sell merchandise bearing the name and colors without the team having the ability to enforce its rights through legal action. While that may not be enough to compel owner Daniel Snyder to abandon his all-caps-never and/or “over my dead body” insistence on keeping the name, it would be the first tangible evidence of an economic consequence for continuing to cling to a name that the ever-evolving English language has over the slow march of time discarded from the list of socially acceptable terms.