Unusual developments in Federal Circuit trademark case bode well for Dan Snyder and company.
For years the NFL franchise associated with Washington, D.C. has been a laughingstock on a number of fronts. Image-wise, both on the field and off, it’s hard to beat them for comedic source material. Here in the CommLawBlog bunker, though, we tend not to focus on things like team record (a .350 winning record over five years – if only that were a batting average, they’d be heading for Cooperstown!), dubious management decisions and the like.
But we have covered at least one aspect of the team’s notoriety: its name. As we reported last year, some folks filed petitions to deny at the FCC objecting to a renewal application for a radio station that happened to be owned by a company controlled by Daniel Snyder, the team’s owner. In the petitioners’ view, the team name “Redskins” is so offensive that it warrants denial of license renewal. Ouch.
The FCC had the good judgment to reject the petitions. But the name debate has raged on elsewhere, most notably in the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), where a number of Native Americans have been waging a years-long battle to have the registration of the mark “Redskins” cancelled because it’s disparaging to, um, Native Americans. Most recently, they made considerable headway: last year the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the mark is indeed disparaging, and it cancelled the mark’s registration, a move that threatens the team’s exclusive right to use the name and certain associated trademarks). [Blogmeister’s Note: Our blogger, Kevin “the Swami” Goldberg, is too modest to mention this, but we aren’t. You can catch a recording of him analyzing the decision for the local CBS TV affiliate here.] Mr. Snyder and company have taken the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where it’s currently pending.
Which brings us to the Slants.Continue Reading...