Touchdown or Penalty? The Immediate Implications of the Redskins Trademark Decision
In a recent landmark decision, the United States Patent and Trademark Office revoked six federal trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins Football Team. The move to cancel their trademark comes in light of the efforts from several American Indian attorneys who find the name 'Redskin' to be both offensive and disparaging to their people. The resolution was immediately heralded as a great victory for American Indians everywhere, because it would force Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder to choose between money and the team name.
However, that is not the case by any means.
Although the trademark had indeed been revoked, and any individual will be allowed to produce merchandise with the team name and logo on it without fear of prosecution in the future, the Redskins will surely appeal the decision in court. During this time, the organization is allowed to continue producing any and all merchandise they wish. They will also be allowed to take legal action against any individual who uses their name without express permission from the team.
The decision will also fail to completely condemn the Redskins franchise due to zero sales. With the exception of sales made at one's home stadium, merchandising profit gets divided equally between all 32 teams in the NFL. This means that the Redskins will still receive money, albeit in a lesser amount as they are one of the highest selling teams in football. This will also hurt smaller market teams such as the Browns who may rely on the Redskins' sales. The NFL owners do love money, and one can only imagine it would only be a matter of time before they pressure Snyder into changing the name.
The team logo is currently a protected trademark and will continue to be protected by the USPTO. This means that the Redskins could conceivably remove any instance of the word "Redskins" from their jersey, t-shirts, sweatshirts, et cetera and still make money.
The decision to revoke the organization's trademark of "Redskin" is indeed a landmark occasion. However, future steps will be needed if American Indian rights activists wish to see any real change from Daniel Snyder and his team.