Remember the Washington Redskins trademark tussle? CNBC reports that it’s back — again — and better than ever. This time the focus is an interesting technical tactic related to an aspect of the case involving the equitable doctrine of laches:
[T]he U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia . . . in 2003 reversed the TTAB’s decision on disparagement. The court also determined that the petitioners were barred by laches, a legal doctrine applied when a court decides that a party has taken too long to assert a right or claim and that the passage of time is deemed prejudicial to an adverse party.
”The way laches works is that it looks at the delay from when the petitioners are roughly 18 years old,” Mause said. Because of the age of many of the original petitioners, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia determined that too much time had passed before they filed suit.
In 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the lower court’s ruling on the grounds that the youngest petitioner, Mateo Romer, only reached the age of majority in 1984 and, therefore, may not be chargeable with prejudicial delay (laches). The appeals court sent the case back to the district court, ordering it to determine whether Romero’s case is barred by laches. The case is pending. Mause said the firm will continue to fight Romero’s claim.
The six new American Indian petitioners are between the ages of 18 to 24, so laches should not be applicable in their petition. Mause said the new petition will force the courts to look at the real issue.
The trademark “disparagement” claim is a dubious issue in a time when nothing is deemed offensive save for the politically incorrect, but the idea that laches should play into it is fairly hard to fathom. If I were a legal realist I would suggest that the courts don’t want to touch this with a first-down chain*, but readers know me too well to ascribe such a philosophy to Likelihood of Confusion.
UPDATE: The case, glacially, moves again.
*Apologies to foreigners and other non-Americans, native or otherwise. This is a first-down chain.