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

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office takes aim at “Redskins”

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 08: The helmet of the Washington Redskins sits on the sideline during a pre-season game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on August 8, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Frederick Breedon

The Washington Redskins presumably refuse to change their name in recognition of the potentially offensive nature of the term for business reasons. Eventually, business reasons could give the team no choice but to change it.

Per the Washington Post, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected last month an application for trademark protection of the term “Redskins Hog Rinds.” The letter rejecting the application identified five definitions of the term “Redskins,” four of which were deemed “offensive” and one “taboo.”

The letter mentions the ongoing opposition to the name of the NFL team in justifying the rejection of the application.

“The USPTO ruling sends a powerful message to Washington team owner Dan Snyder and the NFL that in the name of basic decency and respect they should immediately stop spending millions of dollars to promote the R-word,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a press release. “This is a huge potential precedent-setter rooted in the painfully self-evident truth that the Change the Mascot campaign has been reiterating: The R-word is a dictionary-defined slur designed to demean and dehumanize an entire group of people. The federal government was right to declare that taxpayers cannot and should not subsidize the promotion of that slur through lucrative patent protections.”

While the outcome of the “Redskins Hog Rinds” application has no direct relevance to the NFL team, an action currently is pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to revoke the trademark protection of the name. If ultimately successful, the Redskins would have no ability to restrict other businesses from selling items containing the name “Redskins.”

In other words, the storm of permissible knock offs containing the name the team refuses to abandon would eat into the team’s merchandising sales and necessitate a change to a term that carries with it federal trademark protection.