On Wednesday June 18, 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) boldly cancelled 6 of the Redskin’s trademarks on the basis that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans.”
The cancellation indicates that Pro Football, Inc., the owner of the Redskin registrations, will lose the legal benefits conferred by federal registration of the marks, including the legal presumptions of ownership and of a nationwide scope of rights in these trademarks, the ability to use the federal registration ® symbol, and the ability to record the registrations with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Service so as to block the importation of infringing or counterfeit foreign goods.
Pro Football asserted that the marks should be immune from cancellation because they “have existed for so long, and been the subject of significant investment.” However, the TTAB found the defense to be inapplicable in this case. The Redskins have appealed the ruling and stated that they are “confident that they would once again prevail on appeal, and that today’s decision will make no difference in the continued use of the Redskins name.”
Although 6 of the marks from 1967 to 1990 were ordered to be cancelled, the team’s current logo remains a trademark legally held at this time. The TTAB’s decision does not require the Washington D.C. professional football team to change its name or stop using the trademarks at issue in this case. Nevertheless, the ramifications of such a decision are deleterious to a brand estimated at over $100 million.
This is a conspicuous and precedential decision by a federal agency and one that was made to ignite change. The TTAB is not the only one moving to do away with the mark, Cantwell, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, wrote a letter signed by 49 Democratic senators last month that encouraged a name change.
The TTAB’s decision to cancel the trademarks does not put an end to the Redskin name. Pro Football may seek review by a federal court of the June 18th decision, and registrations will remain “on the federal register of marks” and not be listed in the USPTO’s records as “cancelled” until after any judicial review is completed.