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Are you a Washington football fan who's curious about trademark issues? Then use this guide

Are you a Washington football fan who's curious about trademark issues? Then use this guide

Washington football fans have been forced to educate themselves on the nitty-gritty of plenty of off-field topics in recent years.

From the back-and-forth involving Kirk Cousins and his contract to the Trent Williams saga to the team's recent ownership news, supporters of the Burgundy and Gold often have to hear about and learn about matters that involve complexities and minute details.

This week will be no different, either, thanks to the franchise's choice to move away from its previous name and how its decision about its next one will involve various trademark issues.

So, to better explain what Dan Snyder and the organization could be going through as they aim to make such a dramatic shift, NBC Sports Washington enlisted the help of Scott Zebrak, a founding partner of leading Washington, D.C. copyright and trademark boutique law firm Oppenheim + Zebrak, to get his insight on the situation. 

Below, you'll find Zebrak's answers to the questions you've been wondering about as the team hones in on what they'll be known as moving forward.

Hope you're prepared to be a lot smarter by the time you get to the bottom of this story. 

How unusual is what Washington is trying to do?

On July 3, the team stated that it would be reviewing the Redskins name. Then, on July 13, it came out and said it would be retiring it as soon as it lands on its replacement.

That's quite rare, according to Zebrak.

"I can't think of another instance where a major sports team or large coporation has done that," he said. "Typically, when you look at selecting a trademark and a brand, you ideally are not doing that in rushed circumstances. You are balancing a lot of things. At the corporate level, you're picking a name that is going to be a commerically-successful brand for you. That alone you don't want to rush. Typically, for a major corporation or major sports teams, you're going to have an outside firm or a whole group of people involved in that. So doing it in 10 days is pretty unusual."


How could that tight time frame be impacting the process?

Zebrak explained that applying to register a mark can happen quickly, as can branding something. The research aspect — where Washington would search a federal database to see what's already registered and do a broader search to see what's currently being used — can also be done in a timely manner.

The real key for Snyder and Co. as they work in this small window is finding a name that they can be very sure of and make their own.

"I think the slowdown is if you see something that you would like to have less uncertainty about going forward, where you’d like to try to have greater comfort that there’s not a potential for a problem with a mark owner or domain registrants," Zebrak said. "It could be that that’s what they’re dealing with now."

Those types of problems can be resolved, though.

"It may be that they’ve found a mark or marks that they like but see some potential conflict and are trying to sort through that through some negotiations with the other domain name holders or registrants."

For those wondering why the Monday announcement about leaving the Redskins behind wasn't also coupled with the next moniker, there could very well be your holdup.

Could squatters/speculators be affecting this, too?

On Monday morning, a man by the name of Mark McCaulay called into the Sports Junkies and discussed how he owns the rights to several names, including "Redtails," "Veterans" and "War Hogs." 

But for McCaulay (or other squatters) to capably defend those from the the league — which he personally admitted he isn't necessarily desiring to do — they'd need to be truly active with them.

"Trademark rights are established based on usage," Zebrak said. "So, whether it’s registering a domain name or registering a mark, eventually you have to use it."

That makes it sound like it wouldn't be too strenuous to deal with those kinds of people, especially if Washington is willing to negotiate as Zebrak mentioned.

What are some of the basic things they've been weighing or they are weighing right now?

There are a few principle factors to consider for anyone trying to nail down a trademark.

"When you're clearing a trademark, the first thing you're doing is you're picking a name that's going to be protectable," Zebrak told NBC Sports Washington. "So, if it's too suggestive of what it's being used for, you're not going to have a broad zone of protection. Any mark owner is thinking about choosing a mark that they can protect."

Beyond that, the applicant must confirm that there won't be any mix-ups with any existing trademarks (if the team became the Red Wolves, for example, could that overlap too much with Arkansas State's Red Wolves?).

"Ultimately, these confusion questions are very fact-specific," he said. "Ultimately, it’s how closely similar are they in look as well as sound? Because it may be that you have protection for what’s called a composite mark where it’s multiple words together and not one word standing alone. It may be the 'Washington X,' not just 'X.' Those are the kind of confusion issues that you sort through."

Can they just write a massive check or overpower someone if that's what's required?

"Money obviously helps if you’re in a hurry because you can have some money for those purchases, but it takes two to tango," Zebrak said in response to this inquiry.

Yes, Washington is in the NFL, and the NFL is a very strong force. But that doesn't necessarily mean this can all be handled in a flash, as possibly evidenced by the delay between the old name and new one.

"Sometimes, no matter how fast you want to move, there’s still a negotiation that has to occur with another side," he added. "For all you know, they could be doing this for two marks at once because they aren’t sure which one will get cleared."

Lastly, once they do finally choose the next name, what happens then?

Zebrak reiterated that he suspects Washington is currently attempting to negotiate resolutions and avoid unknowns because, obviously, they'd like to avoid going through this scenario again anytime soon. 

Whenever they satisfy that, the ensuing steps could unfold rapidly.

"If they want to adopt a mark tomorrow, they can begin using it," he said. "The registration isn’t secured overnight, but you begin developing rights in the mark when you begin using it."

Look on any product you own, and odds are you'll see a small "TM" or "R" in a circle near the brand name.

Upon settling on their new name, the franchise will be in the "TM" phase. Fully registering it could take a year or even more, depending on if any opposition arises. They'll still be on solid ground, however, and finally be ready initiate their new era.

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Terry McLaurin ranked above AJ Green, Adam Thielen as top WRs entering 2020 season

Terry McLaurin ranked above AJ Green, Adam Thielen as top WRs entering 2020 season

Terry McLaurin had an outstanding season for the Washington Football Team in 2019, a campaign that ultimately ended just eight yards short of breaking Gary Clark's franchise rookie record.

Based on the eye test and his numbers alone, it's easy to see why Washington is so excited about the second-year pass-catcher for years to come. But if those two things weren't enough to convince you that McLaurin is going to be a star, the advanced analytics will change your mind.

Pro Football Focus has ranked McLaurin as the 13th-best wide receiver entering the 2020 season, ahead of former Pro Bowl pass-catchers Adam Thielen, T.Y. Hilton and A.J. Green, to name a few.

Here's what the advanced analytics website had to say about the Washington pass-catcher:

McLaurin had one of the biggest surprise rookie seasons in recent memory last year. The former third-round pick earned an 86.5 receiving grade, sixth in the league, but it was also the second-best grade we have ever given to a rookie wide receiver. He is an advanced route-runner who can separate downfield at a high rate — he generated separation at the sixth-highest rate in the league on targets of 10-plus yards downfield against single coverage last year. McLaurin averaged 2.05 yards per route run last year, 14th among wide receivers, and he did that despite seeing the second-lowest rate of accurate targets among rookie wide receivers. If Dwayne Haskins can take that next step forward, McLaurin figures to be a force to be reckoned with in Washington.

As the blurb mentioned, McLaurin exceeded all expectations as a rookie in 2019. His 58 catches and 919 receiving yards were by-far a team-high. The third-round pick's seven receiving touchdowns were responsible for almost half of Washington's touchdowns in 2019 via the pass.

PFF took notice of McLaurin's production in 2019 despite the little help he had around him. McLaurin earned an 86.5 receiving grade a year ago, which was the sixth-best mark in the league. That rating was the third-highest overall grade of any rookie last season.

But of all the advanced analytic stats, this one is perhaps the most impressive one: In PFF's history, only Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 had a higher-graded rookie season than McLaurin had a year ago. 


The last part of PFF's breakdown of McLaurin is what will likely determine the second-year wideout's success the most. While Washington head coach Ron Rivera has yet to name Dwayne Haskins the starter, many signs point towards the 23-year-old being Washington's starter in Week 1.

Once Haskins became Washington's starter midway through the season, he and McLaurin began to form a solid duo before injuries prematurely ended both of their rookie campaigns. The connection between the two can be traced back to 2016, when they first became teammates at Ohio State.

Now in Washington, no two players on offense mean more to both the short- and long-term success of the Football Team's offense than Haskins and McLaurin.

McLaurin was a third-round pick and saw 11 other pass-catchers hear them name called before Washington eventually selected him 74th overall in 2019. When Washington picked No. 17, they knew they were getting a speedy wide receiver with excellent character and a fantastic special teamer.

One year later, they have one of the league's brightest rising stars in the game, a player all the other 31 teams would love to have.


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3 Washington games that should be moved to prime time if college football is canceled

3 Washington games that should be moved to prime time if college football is canceled

When the NFL released its 2020 schedule in May, the Washington Football Team was one of two franchises not slotted for any prime time games this fall.

The other? The Detroit Lions. The two teams combined for just six wins a season ago. So, it makes sense for the league to limit the amount of national expose both squads get in 2020.

However, recent developments in college football could cause the NFL to change its current schedule. Reports surfaced Sunday evening that major Power 5 conferences could either cancel or postpone fall sports as early as this week due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, more reports came out that the Big Ten is leaning toward pulling the plug on 2020 on Tuesday.

As college football currently sits in limbo, the NFL is planning on conducting its full 16-game season. Both the league and the NFL Players Association have agreed on protocols to conduct the season in as safe an environment as possible. Teams have begun training camp already, and the protocols in place seem to have worked thus far.

If college football is ultimately canceled or postponed, the NFL will almost certainly adjust its schedule to have games played on Saturdays, the day college football usually dominates the TV audience.

So, if the NFL does ultimately alter its slate for 2020, here are three Washington Football games that should be flexed to national television.


Week 4: Washington vs. Baltimore Ravens

On paper, this matchup may seem a bit lopsided, considering the Ravens finished with a 14-2 record a season ago and only the Cincinnati Bengals finished with fewer wins in 2019 than the Burgundy and Gold did.

However, moving this game to a Saturday slate makes a lot of sense for multiple reasons.

For one, proximity alone. Baltimore's training facility is just 53 miles north of FedExField, where this Week 4 contest will be played. Travel can cause plenty of issues in the current coronavirus world, but hypothetically, the Ravens wouldn't even need to stay in a hotel the day prior and could make the short drive down on the day of the game.

Second, while Baltimore and Washington play in separate conferences and only face another every four years, the players keep tabs on what the other organization is doing. While there isn't a true Beltway rivalry between the two teams, several Washington players -- including rookie Chase Young -- have already said playing Baltimore is one game they are looking forward to the most. They play all the time in the preseason. But the NFL should do as much as possible to make regular-season games between the two teams matter given that four-year gap between real games. 

Week 11: Washington vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals and the Washington Football Team held the first two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, respectively, so it's fair to wonder why a matchup between two teams that combined for four wins in 2019 should be moved to prime time. 

However, the storylines in this game are endless.

Cincinnati selected LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall in April, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who originally started his career at Ohio State. Burrow moved on from OSU following spring practices in 2018 after losing the competition for the starting QB gig to none other than Dwayne Haskins.

The Washington QB was recently asked about the competition between the two, and while Haskins said they are great friends now, he admitted they "couldn't stand each other" during the battle for the starting spot. This Week 11 matchup between Washington and Cincinnati will be the first time Haskins and Burrow face one another at the professional level.

Burrow versus Haskins may not even be the most intriguing storyline, however. Rather, leading up to the game, Burrow will be a lot more focused on the player who was selected one pick after him in April's draft in  Young.

Young was considered a generational prospect by many experts entering the draft, and the 21-year-old likely would have been the top selection had Cincinnati not needed a quarterback. Although Young was selected by his hometown team in Washington and joins a loaded defensive front, the pass rusher still has a little chip on his shoulder that he was passed on by the Bengals.


Week 16: Washington vs. Carolina Panthers

The reason to flex this matchup into prime time is a simple one: it's Washington head coach Ron Rivera's first game against the team he spent nearly the past decade coaching.

By all accounts, Rivera is the most successful coach in Panthers' history. He led Carolina to four division titles during his nine-year tenure with the team, peaking with a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2015.

Now, he's tasked with turning around another franchise in Washington, which football-wise is in a similar situation to where the Panthers were in 2011. While Rivera has said that this matchup is "just another game" to him, he knows the media storylines leading up to it will make it a bigger deal than he thinks it is.

“Everybody wants it, the media wants it," Rivera said in May. "They want to build that up, they want to hype that."

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