The latest effort to strip trademark protection from the name of the Washington Redskins is now before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Native Americans, represented by Philip Mause, of counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, filed protests Feb. 24 against six pending trademark applications for the Redskins name, some dating as far back as 1992. The trademark applications were filed by Pro Football, inc., the owner of the Redskins, and other entities including the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders in hopes of protecting the trademark for use on clothing and other souvenirs and paraphernalia.
According to Mause, the applications had been "held in abeyance" while the long-running litigation against the Redskins filed by Suzan Harjo and others was underway. As we reported here in November, the Supreme Court denied review of a lower court decision that had rejected the Harjo challenge to existing Redskins trademarks.
The new protest through the trademark office's administrative process makes many of the same arguments that the Redskins name is disparaging and therefore not eligible for trademark protection. "The use of 'redskins' and other so-called Indian names and images in sports are offensive and demeaning to Native American peoples," the protest letter states. In an interview, Mause said the letters were filed at an early stage in the examination process that was reopened after the Harjo litigation ended. As a result, Mause said the issues of laches -- whether the challengers waited too long -- should not come into play.
Meanwhile, another legal action titled Blackhorse v. Pro Football Inc. is still pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, seeking to cancel existing Redskins trademarks. In that case, a younger group of plaintiffs is challenging the trademarks and hoping that their recent age of majority, which is when laches begins to run, will remove that obstacle. Mause said the motivation behind the multiple actions is "to get a decision on the merits at long last."The team's lawyer, Robert Raskopf of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges in New York, declined immediate comment on the new trademark protests.