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The Redskins Trademark Decision Is Legally Dubious, And Troubling

Washington Redskins Helmet

As James Joyner noted last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a ruling rescinding the Trademark granted to the Washington Redskins on the ground that the name is disparaging to a racial group:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, calling the football team’s name “disparaging to Native Americans.”

The landmark case, which appeared before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, was filed on behalf of five Native Americans. It was the second time such a discase was filed.

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

Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The ruling pertains to six different trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word “Redskin.”

We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case,” Alfred Putnam Jr., the chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath, said. “The dedication and professionalism of our attorneys and the determination of our clients have resulted in a milestone victory that will serve as an historic precedent.

This isn’t the first time that the Redskins have faced an adverse ruling from the Patent Office. This same Trial And Appeals Board came down with an identical decision in 1999 but that decision was overturned by a Federal Appeals Court on what were largely technical procedural issues. The Native American parties in this case say that they have fixed the technical problems that led to the dismissal more than a decade ago, but it is certain that the Redskins will appeal this decision on other grounds in any case. In a broad sense, there are issues relating to the team’s property rights in the Trademark, as well as Due Process arguments related to the fact that the PTO is attempting to rescind a Trademark that was granted decades ago for what are arguably purely political reasons. Since I’m not an expert in Trademark law, I’m not going to comment on the legal merits of those arguments, but it’s rather obvious that this is far from the end of the road on this issue and that if the Redskins decide that they want to fight this decision, which  seems likely, then we’re looking at a legal dispute that will likely last for several more years and which could reach the Supreme Court before its finally resolved.

Leaving aside the questions of whether or not the name “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans and whether or not the team name should be changed to something less offensive (and it’s worth noting that 2004 Annenberg poll showed that the vast majority of Native Americans polled said they were not offended by the name), there are several things about this decision that should be troubling. On its face, of course, nobody has a “right” to Trademark protection. The Constitution authorizes Congress to grant patents and copyrights, of course, and the Commerce Clause would seem to quite clearly grant it the authority to provide protection to things such as company and product names that have independent value. However, there’s nothing in the Constitution that requires Congress to do any of this, or sets the terms under which such Intellectual Property Rights must be granted. Indeed, the “disparagement” exception under which the PTO acted in this case was part of Trademark Law since well before the Redskins applied for the Trademarks that are at issue here. At the same time, though, it seems apparent that the statute’s intent was that whether or not the mark is “disparaging” was to be something evaluated at the time the mark is applied for, not decades later in response to a long-term social pressure case by one group purporting to represent all Native Americans. Taking away Trademark protection decades after it was granted, then, raises serious due process concerns.

Nothing that the Patent and Trademark Office does changes the name of the Washington Redskins, of course. What the ruling has the potential to do, however, is cause serious financial harm to the Redskins in particular and the National Football League in general by allowing anyone to use the Redskins name and logo to sell merchandise without approval, and without paying compensation to the Redskins. To some extent, the actual impact of the decision will be muted by the fact that there is also a common law concept of trademarks that exists outside of Federal Law on the issue that, in theory, would allow the Redskins to protect their interests. However, the scope of common law trademarks isn’t identical to that granted by Federal law (if it were there would be no reason for Trademarks to be protected by the Federal Government) and enforcing rights in that manner would potentially involve incurring significantly higher legal costs than might otherwise be the case. So, yes, the Redskins will be damaged by this decision if it is ultimately upheld on appeal.

Given this, I would suggest that revoking the team trademarks in this manner, especially given the fact that it was done decades after the marks were initially approved by the very same Patent And Trademark office raises service concerns under both the Takings and Due Process clauses of the Fifth Amendment. In repealing trademarks that were determined to be valid when initially applied for, and which have been in use for decades in reliance upon that initial approval, the government has taken property of significant, quantifiable value from the Redskins for which they will not be compensated. Additionally, retroactively applying the “disparaging” provisions more than 40 years after the Redskins received their trademarks seems to me to be a clear case of government overreach, especially when there are other equally disparaging trademarks that remain valid under the law. Finally, there is an intriguing argument that the entire idea of denying, or in this case revoking, trademarks based on content is a violation of the First Amendment, as Eugene Volokh argued in a different context:

My tentative view is that the general exclusion of marks that disparage persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols should be seen as unconstitutional. Trademark registration, I think, is a government benefit program open to a wide array of speakers with little quality judgment. Like other such programs (such as broadly available funding programs, tax exemptions, or access to government property), it should be seen as a form of “limited public forum,” in which the government may impose content-based limits but not viewpoint-based ones. An exclusion of marks that disparage groups while allowing marks that praise those groups strikes me as viewpoint discrimination. But I’m not sure that courts will ultimately see this my way; so far they haven’t been inclined to do so, precisely because the exclusion of a mark from federal registration leaves people entirely free to use the mark.

It’s likely that these and other legal issues will be raised in the appeal that the Redskins are expected to file to the decision of the PTO’s Trial And Appeals Board.

George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley raises another concern about the attempted revocation of the Redskins Trademarks:

As federal agencies have grown in size and scope, they have increasingly viewed their regulatory functions as powers to reward or punish citizens and groups. The Internal Revenue Service offers another good example. Like the patent office, it was created for a relatively narrow function: tax collection. Yet the agency also determines which groups don’t have to pay taxes. Historically, the IRS adopted a neutral rule that avoided not-for-profit determinations based on the content of organizations’ beliefs and practices. Then, in 1970, came the Bob Jones University case. The IRS withdrew the tax-exempt status from the religious institution because of its rule against interracial dating on campus. The Supreme Court affirmed in 1983 that the IRS could yank tax exemption whenever it decided that an organization is behaving “contrary to established public policy” — whatever that public policy may be. Bob Jones had to choose between financial ruin and conforming its religious practices. It did the latter.

There is an obvious problem when the sanctioning of free exercise of religion or speech becomes a matter of discretionary agency action. And it goes beyond trademarks and taxes. Consider the Federal Election Commission’s claim of authority to sit in judgment of whether a film is a prohibited “electioneering communication.” While the anti-George W. Bush film “Fahrenheit 9/11″ was not treated as such in 2004, the anti-Clinton “Hillary: The Movie” was barred by the FEC in 2008. The agency appeared Caesar-like in its approval and disapproval — authority that was curtailed in 2010 by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.

(…)

When agencies engage in content-based speech regulation, it’s more than the usual issue of “mission creep.” As I’ve written before in these pages, agencies now represent something like a fourth branch in our government — an array of departments and offices that exercise responsibilities once dedicated exclusively to the judicial and legislative branches. Insulated from participatory politics and accountability, these agencies can shape political and social decision-making. To paraphrase Clausewitz, water, taxes and even trademarks appear to have become the continuation of politics by other means.

What is needed is a new law returning these agencies to their core regulatory responsibilities and requiring speech neutrality in enforcement. We do not need faceless federal officials to become arbiters of our social controversies. There are valid objections to the Redskins name, but it is a public controversy that demands a public resolution, not a bureaucratic one.

Turley is absolutely correct. There may well be a good argument for changing the name of the Redskins, although as I’ve said before that is a decision that ought to be left to the Redskins themselves, and it’s perfectly okay to have a public discussion on that issue. What isn’t okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on the matter on the public as a whole.

For those interested, here’s the Trial and Appeals Board decisions, including the dissenting opinion and exhibits:

PTO Order Rescinding Redskins Trademark by Doug Mataconis

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    It seems to me the disparaging issue was appropriate to address when the trademark was granted decades ago…when it apparently was not disparaging…and to apply that test retro-actively is wrong.

    Obviously this is another plot by Obama, the weak and feckless leader, to single-handedly take over the entire nation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Doug? Youhoo? I suggest you read up on genericide. Same exact argument, but it isn’t going to work. It’s not a taking (although I’m sure the company holding the brand that has become generic would love to be able to make that argument.)

    Remember, trademarks HAVE TO BE CONTINUOUSLY RENEWED EVERY TEN YEARS. So you can think of it as needing to show that you STILL qualify for the trademark.

    And sorry, but First Amendment does not automatically provide protection, especially if trademarks are considered commercial speech. (Lower level of protection, remember?) The clause about non-derogatory trademarks is IN THE STATUTE ITSELF.

    (God I hate First Amendment absolutists. Most of them have no idea of limits.)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  3. legion says:

    There was a time when it was perfectly acceptable for a NY sports team to carry a major Jewish slur as its name. That time is no longer. There was a time when it was acceptable for an NFL team to be named for a slur on Native Americans. That time is also no more. The fact that the name was declared “ok” back in the 70s in no way prevents the PTO from declaring it unacceptable _almost 50 years later_. Times change; society changes. Get over it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  4. PD Shaw says:

    1. Agree that the retroactivity is a problem, but I’m not clear why the most recent renewals of these trademarks are not “fair game” for cancellation.

    2. Language constantly changes. The trademark decision appears to be greatly supported by dictionary definitions that began around 1966 to identify redskins as an offensive usage. The agency isn’t simply making this up. To Turley’s point, I would have no problem with the courts largely taking responsibility for this determination.

    3. The First Amendment claims appear weak in the specific context of what trademarks are, they are restraints against competitive usage. In Volokh’s example, “Stop the Islamization of America” is a pretty awful example. A protection of that political speech as a protected mark, would hinder other people from using it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. Grewgills says:

    At the same time, though, it seems apparent that the statute’s intent was that whether or not the mark is “disparaging” was to be something evaluated at the time the mark is applied for, not decades later

    1) How is that apparent?
    2) As has been mentioned, the application is renewed every 10 years. That would seem to indicate that it can be evaluated every 10 years.
    3) If the team had been named in the late 1800s or early 1900s there are quite a few names that we now consider disparaging that would have not been considered so then. Would you support allowing continuing trademark protections for a team named the kikes, hebes, n!ggers, etc?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. bill says:

    the “false outrage” crowd needs a perpetual crutch i guess? the redskins are always sold out and one of the most difficult tickets to get- even when they suck- so apparently they aren’t all that offensive to fans. when/why does the “vocal minority” think they should always get their way?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 15

  7. Matt Bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:

    The trademark decision appears to be greatly supported by dictionary definitions that began around 1966 to identify redskins as an offensive usage. The agency isn’t simply making this up.

    Agreed. I think the fact that agency reached the same decision 15 years ago also speaks to this fact as well.

    Again, the entire trademark renewal aspect also tends to strengthen the argument that the name itself must also be reviewed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    What isn’t okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on the matter on the public as a whole.

    What the hell kind of stupid thing is this to write?

    (A) Points off for “unelected bureaucrats” — of course bureaucrats are unelected.

    (B) “Unelected bureaucrats” enforce the will of the elected legislators and executive. Unless you’d like to see the public vote on every single decision ever made in in the United States, that’s the way it always has been and always has to be.

    (C ) Bureaucrats “force” (i.e., enact the will of the democratically-elected legislature and executive) their “opinions” (i.e, their interpretation of the law) on the public ALL THE TIME, on EVERY ISSUE. THAT’S HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 2

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @bill: This is a TRADEMARK issue, not a left-right issue. Hello, disparaging speech?

    Note: in all other countries in the world with trademark registration systems, you can’t register a trademark that is derogatory to a class of individuals.

    Why should the US be any different? Do you want to register derogatory trademarks?

    (And if you get rid of that clause, can you imagine what would get registered….?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    What isn’t okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on the matter on the public as a whole.

    Hey, I don’t think it’s okay for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on acceptable levels of mercury poisoning in fish, or lead levels in house paint, or asbestos in the walls of schools, or botulism toxin in foodstuffs, or fecal coliform concentrations in tap water, or automobile speed levels around kindergartens, on the public as a whole. We’ve all got problems to deal with….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  11. Dean says:

    Personally, I think the Onion nailed this whole debate in one headline (and I am paraphrasing).

    ‘Study finds “redskins” only offensive if you think about it for a moment.’

    We consider ourselves a civilized nation, civilized people don’t name sports teams with racial slurs.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  12. DrDaveT says:

    There is an obvious problem when the sanctioning of free exercise of religion or speech becomes a matter of discretionary agency action.

    There’s an even more obvious problem when people start confusing “failure to subsidize” with “sanctioning”.

    Nobody’s freedom of speech is being impaired here. Everyone is free to use the word ‘redskin’ in whatever manner or context they like. Refusing to grant a particular organization trademark protection for the name does not, in any way, restrict free speech.

    By the way, the PTO revocation applies only to 6 specific uses, all of which include the written word Redskins (or Redskinettes) as part of the presented image. Any knockoff artist who tries to use any of the team’s graphic logos (e.g. helmet art) is still going to get hammered.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  13. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    “Unelected bureaucrats” enforce the will of the elected legislators and executive.

    You beat me to this. “Unelected bureaucrats” are selected/appointed by elected officials. If someone doesn’t like the “unelected bureaucrats,” they can work to elect representatives who will appoint different ones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  14. rudderpedals says:

    I predicted a 5th amendment antebellum taking argument in the earlier thread. Shades of Lochner…

    Possible solution: rename to the Washington Foreskins, offending a small group of mohels, at worst. — h/t Michael Feldman

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. Mark Brooks says:

    Here. let’s add to the stupidity about the whole thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    There is an obvious problem when the sanctioning of free exercise of religion or speech becomes a matter of discretionary agency action.

    Whose free speech is being restricted here? Not Dan Snyder’s. He’s completely free to keep calling his team the Redskins.

    In fact, if you think about it for a minute, it’s Snyder who wants to restrict speech, by asking the government to grant him an enforceable trademark which he will then use to shut down others who want to sell or commercialize the Redskins name. If I’d been selling “Redskins” branded footballs out of my home, Snyder wasn’t going to have any concerns about my free speech rights….instead he would have been going right to the unelected bureaucrats to stop me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    What isn’t okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on the matter on the public as a whole.

    Except, of course, that had the unelected bureaucrats used their position to force their opinion on the public as a whole that the Redskins trademark was NOT derogatory and therefore valid, Doug would have been fine with that.

    It’s a funny sort of principle that only applies when it produces the exact result you want….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    Remember, it’s Snyder who every ten years went hat in hand to the unelected bureaucrats to ask them to use the coercive power of the state to restrict the free speech rights of anyone else who wanted to use the Redskins name. It’s him and his organization who were seeking to use the government to enforce a competitive advantage over their business rivals. It’s more than galling to now have Redskins defenders complain about “government power” when the Redskins’ whole business model was to rely on government power via trademark to quash competition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. wr says:

    @bill: “so apparently they aren’t all that offensive to fans. when/why does the “vocal minority” think they should always get their way?”

    Because apparently the several tens of thousands of ticket buyers and would-be ticket buyers do not make up the entire pool of people who are exposed to the Redskin name and logo on a reglr basis.

    According to your thinking, there’s nothing wrong with a Klan rally marching down any main street because the people inside the sheets don’t find anything offensive about dressing up that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. Jay says:

    Dick Cheney 2016!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Rafer Janders says:

    Leaving aside the questions of whether or not the name “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans and whether or not the team name should be changed to something less offensive

    No. No. Not leaving this aside. That’s the entire issue.

    That’s like writing about marriage equality “leaving aside the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry the person they love….”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  22. wr says:

    @Rafer Janders: “Remember, it’s Snyder who every ten years went hat in hand to the unelected bureaucrats to ask them to use the coercive power of the state to restrict the free speech rights of anyone else who wanted to use the Redskins name”

    Remember, kids, it’s only coercive if it’s being to TO rich, white men. If it’s being done BY rich, white men, by definition it can’t be coercive — it’s the magic of the free market!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  23. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. and yes, I know, the “offensiveness” of the trademark is supposedly measured at the time of registration, which makes absolutely no bloody sense because this totally ignores that the meaning of words change over time. Plus, you don’t measure “genericness” at the time of registration but whether the trademark becomes generic at any point in time, which is sufficient to provide grounds for cancelling the registration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  24. PD Shaw says:

    The prohibition against registering an offensive mark apparently dates back to at least to the Trade Mark Act of 1905. I wonder if there were/are similar common law prohibitions. I couldn’t find how long ago the Washington R-words began registering the trademark, but there is a reference to the 1974 renewal as being the third, suggesting at least since 1944, or more likely around the time of the Trade Mark Act of 1946.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. beth says:

    @grumpy realist: Exactly – imagine if there had been a basketball team in CT named the Sandy Hook Shooters. Don’t you think their name would be questioned if it came up for trademark renewal?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  26. fredw says:

    The obvious solution is to have the “Redskins” file for a PATENT containing the words “Using a computer” since the patent office grants all of these no matter how stupid or obvious the underlying idea is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  27. Tillman says:

    What isn’t okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on the matter on the public as a whole.

    Are they forcing the public, or the Washington Redskins? Don’t see how the public is being forced to do anything here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  28. James Pearce says:

    What isn’t okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on the matter on the public as a whole.

    This Redskins thing is taking on a “If the name is changed, the liberals will win” vibe.

    We can get into the weeds talking about “unelected bureaucrats” and such, but the bottom line is that if your principles find you defending a racist nickname for a professional sports team, then you have some garbage principles.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  29. Matt Bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:
    The Redskins adopted the name in 1933 (after playing for a year or so as the Boston Braves). As to when they initially applied for the trademark, I haven’t been able to find that date either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @fredw: Not since the latest CLS Bank decision…..

    Probably too insider-baseball, but we’re going to be reading tea leaves quite a while on this one. I’ve read 5 opinions on what CLS Bank does to patent law, all from different legal bloggers or law professors, and they’re all of them different.

    So software patents are allowed/not allowed/just the same/all patents invalidated/abstraction is in the mind of the judge.

    Whatever….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. Rafer Janders says:

    What isn’t okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to force their opinions on the matter on the public as a whole.

    Question for Doug: it is okay is for unelected bureaucrats to use their positions to grant the Redskins a trademark and thereby force their opinions on this matter on the public as a whole?

    There is an obvious problem when the sanctioning of free exercise of religion or speech becomes a matter of discretionary agency action.

    Agreed – so what about my free speech rights to sell homemade Redskins-branded jerseys, footballs, and cocktails coasters over Etsy? By what rights does the PTO restrict my free speech to do this by granting Snyder a trademark?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  32. Tillman says:

    @James Pearce:

    We can get into the weeds talking about “unelected bureaucrats” and such, but the bottom line is that if your principles find you defending a racist nickname for a professional sports team, then you have some garbage principles.

    That’s not a good criterion to go off of. I like the principle “innocent until proven guilty,” but it means I end up defending almost certainly guilty people because the state screwed up prosecuting them. I happen to think murderers are more vile than racists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. James Pearce says:

    @Tillman:

    That’s not a good criterion to go off of.

    Sure it is. Principles are supposed to help one navigate a morally complex landscape. They are not meant to bind one to morally questionable results.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. john says:

    So what about the Fighting Irish?

    And Cleveland is just plain screwed, what with the Indians (who the hell still uses that inaccurate, offensive term?) and the Browns. And on a side note, nice logo “Indians!”

    And per that poll, a mere 9% of actual Native Americans found the term “Redskins” offensive. Thank god all you white devils are around to tell the other 90% of Native Americans how stupid and insensitive they are.

    Is the term “Nergo” still considered offensive? Or “Colored?” What then happens to the United Negro College Fund? Can I sue to have those trademarks taken away?

    Is Green Bay’s team name offensive to homosexuals?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 18

  35. grumpy realist says:

    @john: Um, this is a bog-standard request made to the USPTO to vacate a trademark. Each side has presented its side and the Board has made its decision.

    If you have standing and can make a good argument, you are invited to attempt to get revoked any of the trademarks you have mentioned.

    This really isn’t PR insanity run amok, guys. This is Round N of a trademark fight that’s been going on for year. I remember reading the earlier round of it in law school.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  36. wr says:

    @john: Congratulations. You’ve come up with the entire list of right-wing responses, and it only took you several months after they circulated in every conversation on this subject. Really, you ought to talk to Crazy Uncle Lou and complain that you’re getting his chain mails way too late to be useful…

    Do love the new word “Nergo,” though. Maybe it could be the sequel to Fargo…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  37. bill says:

    @grumpy realist: semantics. were you always offended by their name or are you the typical bandwagon freak looking for attention or an icebreaker at starbucks? last i checked there weren’t all that many indians that were offended by it – just a bunch of whiny, self important types who think they’re saving us from ourselves……while generating donations to some lamer cause.

    @beth: maybe if they had a basketball team?! weak analogy anyway- the redskins haven’t killed anyone in quite a while.

    @wr: they have millions of fans who aren’t offended at all. how you can get some sort of “klan” analogy out of that is pretty desperate, was robt. byrd a ‘skins fan or something?!

    the newest round of lameness has to come from minnesota- they’re changing the name of “asian carp” to “invasive carp” so they don’t offend asians. wonder if they’ll force restaurants to change their name to “invasive cuisine”?!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12

  38. Matt Bernius says:

    @john:
    *sigh* most of this “points” have been dealt with before…

    So what about the Fighting Irish?

    This argument ignores the fact that the institution that adopted this was/is known as a bastion of Irish Catholic culture within the US. And much of it’s population through the years has been Irish.

    And per that poll, a mere 9% of actual Native Americans found the term “Redskins” offensive.

    Here’s some data on the poll: “In the 2004 survey, the question was asked of 768 self-identified Indians or Native Americans.” Self Identified here is a critical point. As right winger’s pointed out, Elizabeth Warren was a “self-identified” native american.

    But this represents a single poll, and by itself, is a *single* data point. We have other data points that call this into conflict.

    Or “Colored?” What then happens to the United Negro College Fund? Can I sue to have those trademarks taken away?

    Well, it depends… are you black? If not, then “No.” If you are, then you’ll need to demonstrate why its a damaging name.

    And further the fact that you cannot or will not differentiate between a name of a for-profit entity whose function has little-to-nothing to do with native peoples and a non-profit that is directed (and run) for and by the people who are associated with its (admittedly antiquated) name says more about the seriousness of your argument than anything else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @bill: I’m disinterested either way. What I don’t like is the asinine stupidity that is getting flung about about trademark law, the First Amendment, and how the USPTO works by people who have no expertise in the area.

    In other words, unless you have a background in trademark law, please refrain from making declaratory comments on something you know nothing about. This is a typical standard legal issue and will be processed through the normal channels. We’ve got case law outlining what percentage of a population has to find a nomenclature offensive for it to be considered “enough.: have the plaintiffs met that bar? My own personal feeling is that they haven’t and this whole thing will be reversed on appeal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  40. wr says:

    @bill: “they have millions of fans who aren’t offended at all.”

    Let me try to explain this to you one more time: It’s not just the fans that count here.

    Got it?

    Now I know you seem to think you’ve spoken to every Native American on the continent and only the uppity ones have complained, so obviously they don’t mind, so I guess there’s no point trying to converse with you.

    But there is a world beyond Redskins fans… or even football fans. Shocking to think that not everyone — I mean, aside from those who go to Starbucks, or whatever your point was supposed to be — agrees with you, but there you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  41. Harry says:

    No one seems to know the true history behind the word “redskin”. It was a term coined by NATIVE AMERICANS. They used it to differentiate between themselves “redskins” and “the “white man”. Look up the article by David Skinner on this matter. This is also why it’s only 5 Native American that are pressing this issue, mind you the same exact 5 as this article explains from the last time. Its not a thousand or even 100. The majority of native Americans have reported that they have no problem with the Washington Redskins. This is because they aren’t using the term despairingly. The fight song goes “hail to the redskins!” The Washington Redskins have been a proud organization that have used and been honored to use their name with no disrespect to anyone since the late 30’s.

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  42. Candoitoo says:

    Why not keep the name and just change the picture (logo) to a Peanut, and make everyone happy? Except the peanut!

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  43. Andre Kenji says:

    @Harry:

    This is also why it’s only 5 Native American that are pressing this issue, mind you the same exact 5 as this article explains from the last time.

    Both Tom Cole and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, probably the two most prominent Republican politicians of Native American descent are on the record saying that the NFL Franchise in Washington DC should change their name.

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  44. pete says:

    As was stated why do we cater to the few, the mass majority of Native Americans have no problem with it. Before all of this came up from when I was a boy I viewed it as a strong kind of Warrior like meaning name. This country is going nuts enough with all this political correctness bull.

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  45. Rafer Janders says:

    @john:

    So what about the Fighting Irish?

    Do you think “Irish” is a slur?

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  46. Mu says:

    @Rafer Janders: You never watched “Blazing Saddles”?

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  47. Ken says:

    @Harry:

    “The Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University, San Bernardino has conducted a study on racial and ethnic perspectives on the team name Redskins and associated issues, and found that the large majority of American Indians, when properly identified and polled, find the team name offensive, disrespectful and racist.

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  48. Grewgills says:

    @Mu:
    Always go to Mel Brooks for your determinations of what is offensive and what is not. What could go wrong?

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  49. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mu:

    Actually, no. Never have.

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  50. Harry says:

    @Ken:
    So you think a college study that found 65 out of 98 Native Americans in California equals a “large majority” Its a majority but not a large majority. And you believe this is more indicative then the 90% of 768 native American’s nationally polled that didn’t find the word offensive to them? What about the new Associated Press-GfK poll from 2013 that shows nationally nearly four in five Americans don’t think the team should change its name. Only 11 percent think it should be changed with the rest undecided or unanswered.

    Public Policy Polling released a survey this past January 2nd showing that 71 percent of 741 Americans do not want to change the name. 18 percent said they thought the name should be changed, while 11 percent said they weren’t sure. Its also important to point out that regardless of race, gender, age, or political affiliation, not one subgroup supported changing the team’s name in that poll. Sorry but your 65 out of 98 Native Americans from a college study in California seems to fail in comparison.

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  51. Harry says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    If 5 Native American’s pressing the issue didn’t impress me. What makes you think that 2 Native American Politicians do? The fact that they are prominent politicians means absolutely nothing. Because that’s only in the eyes of the public and absolutely anything can go on behind closed doors. This is a country that favors the majority people not the few, sorry but its true. I’m baffled that you highlighted a argument where 5 wasn’t enough and tried to argue that 2 was.

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