As much as the name Red Wolves has gain popularity among fans and former players, the Washington football team reportedly has yet to take an important step toward securing the rights to use it.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s George Stoia reported Tuesday that Arkansas State University, which has held the trademark for “Red Wolves” since 2008, hasn’t been contacted by the NFL team regarding the name. According to one legal professional, that would likely have to happen before Washington could move forward with its rebrand.
“I'd be hard pressed to think that the Washington NFL team, with all of its lawyers of experience, would just move forward with Red Wolves without at least venturing to reach out to Arkansas State and try to reach a co-existence agreement,” University of Florida sports law professor Darren Heitner told Stoia.
Arkansas State is already wrapped up in a legal dispute with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga over the name Red Wolves. In 2018, Chattanooga registered the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; three months later, ASU issued a cease-and-desist letter. The two schools are now set to appear in federal court before possibly heading to a trial that could drag into 2021.
Given that Washington would face several complications by entering the 2020 season without a name, the team likely doesn’t have time to wait for the case between ASU and Chattanooga to be resolved. If Washington is set on using Red Wolves, then it may have to move forward with the understanding that a lengthy court process lies ahead—unless a co-existence agreement is reached.
“It's a fascinating case for many reasons,” University of New Hampshire School of Law associate professor Alexandra Roberts told Stoia. “When you look at Washington possibly picking [Red Wolves], Arkansas State is making a pretty big show that they are territorial, they are litigious, they are not going to quietly allow anybody who wants to use the Red Wolves name.”
So far, neither side appears to have started the conversation.
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