Tag Archives: Redskins

A certain NFL team is on the warpath

Sorry about the pun — but then again, I’m not the PTO; then again, too, my attitude toward “scandalous and offensive” ethnic marks is different from that of lots of people, too. This one, in particular, has long rubbed me the wrong way.

Regarding the Redskins appeal of the REDSKINS cancellation, here, courtesy of The Trademark Blog, is the complaint in Redskins v Blackhorse:


Unsurprising:  Great reliance on the issues raised by the dissenting TTAB judge regarding the serious evidentiary problems with the TTAB ruling.  This is the core argument in our Federal Circuit brief on behalf of THE SLANTS.  Also interesting:

  • There’s a cause of action for a determination that Section 2(a) is void for vagueness, which we also argue in the SLANTS brief;
  • The Redskins claim that the ruling, coming so late in the historical game in terms of the history of the REDSKINS trademark, did not merely err in terms of laches, but that due to the long use of the trademark by the team violates the Due Process Clause and the Takings Clause of the Constitution;
  • Particularly interesting:  It’s de novo review by the District Court in Virginia, not an appeal to the Federal Circuit.  A party appealing from a TTAB ruling can, in most circumstances, do either of these.

Did the Redskins take the appeal to the District Court approach due to a perception that, based on its recent track record, the Circuit is inclined to approve 2(a) determinations of scandalous ‘n’ offensive as a rule? Probably not. It probably has more to do with the fact that, unlike in THE SLANTS case, the REDSKINS case is premised on an unusually rich factual record.  The team’s argument is that, given every opportunity imaginable to prove its case, the plaintiffs Blackhorse failed.   Remember that the burden on the  particularly onerous one:  Proving that the REDSKINS marks were disparaging to American Indians at the time they were registered, i.e., 1967-1990.

Trademark lawyer Ron ColemanI don’t have much trouble guessing, even assuming, that the marks were, in fact, disparaging to that group.  Doesn’t it make sense that it would be?  Anyone can see it.

That’s a very different kettle of fish, however, from proving it by a preponderance of the evidence.

On reading the REDSKINS decision, I was not surprised to find that the nature of the “proof” relied on by the TTAB was, as it admitted in its opinion, highly “inferential.”  Given the burden on the plaintiffs, and the profound interests, including bona fide commercial ones premised on a very reasonable presumption of the correctness of an agency’s repeated administrative decision, the idea that the TTAB would be swayed by so much inferential evidence is pretty surprising –

Suprising… Read More…

Redskins’ intractable trademark troubles — or sportswriters’?

Originally posted 2012-01-04 11:22:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I’ve been following the REDSKINS trademark travails since forever.

Well, they’re not over. Or are they?

Live with me in real-time, real-life blogging time.

I got excited by a link on my Google alert for trademark news, to this story in the Washington Post:

As Redskins’ struggles drag on, so does court challenge to name

By Courtland Milloy, Published: January 1

Back in 1992, Washington reigned as Super Bowl champs with high hopes for two in a row under coach Joe Gibbs. That year, a Native American resident of the District, Suzan Harjo, became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to change the team’s disparaging name: Redskins.

As the legal battle over the name enters its 20th year, let’s review some highlights of a struggle in which moral victories by the plaintiffs often coincided with demoralizing losses by the team on the field — including dashed hopes of winning another Super Bowl.

So far, so good: Some new development!  Looks like I can post on the seemingly intractable trademark troubles of the Washington Redskins!

But… what’s the new news?  Here’s the last paragraph of the story, which refers to the earlier dismissal of the Harjo case on laches grounds:

2012: Another lawsuit to get rid of the team name, Blackhorse et al v. Pro-Football Inc., will be working its way through the courts, this one from a younger group of Native Americans who cannot be said to have “waited too long to file.”

But they have already waited too long for justice.

So, then, what is the status of Blackhorse that made it newsorthy at the Post?  Well, not much; it is kind of creeping along.  A few weeks ago, the parties filed a joint stipulation of facts in the opposition action pending in the TTAB.  Not a lot to report.

Slow news day? I guess in the sports department, it pretty much always is, in Washington.  But Happy New Year!

Redskins decision: The present judges the past

I’ve been writing about the dispute over the REDSKINS trademark on this blog more or less since the beginning of the blog itself.

Today a new chapter has been written — or rewritten.  The TTAB has ruled and, not particularly surprisingly, the NFL team called the REDSKINS has been deemed, nunc pro tunc, to have run afoul (along with the Patent and Trademark Office itself) of Section 2(a) by registering a trademark that was disparaging of American Indians.  Several of their trademark registrations (NOT ITS TRADEMARKS) have been ordered to be cancelled.

As I read the opinion I sort of live-tweeted, on my personal account (as opposed to this blog’s Twitter feed) my observations of the key points as I went along, starting with the holding set forth in the introduction.  You can now relive that excitement here, plus read my extra bonus observation at the end of the post:

Read More…

Redskins redux 2

Originally posted 2009-06-09 12:37:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I didn’t have a chance to mention that last month, the order denying the legal challenge to the Washington Redskin’s use of its trademark American Indian logo was upheld.

Now I have a chance!

And do the unhappy Indians have a chance?  They think they do.

UPDATE: They don’t (via @ABAJournal).

Redskins redux

Originally posted 2006-08-09 23:33:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Redskins Logo

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.

Football Redskins live to fight another day

Originally posted 2008-09-02 00:01:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This story won’t die — especially judging from the prominence of related words among search terms that reach this redskins-logoblog.  The latest, which we missed when it came out in July and we were otherwise engaged, is that the NFL’s Washington Redskins again prevailed in a lawsuit brought by a group of American Indians, but by all lights not on the central question of whether the REDSKINS trademark should be canceled on the ground that it is “immoral” or “scandalous”:

In a ruling dated June 25 and first circulated [in early July], U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the youngest of the seven Native American plaintiffs waited too long after turning 18 to file the lawsuit that attempts to revoke the Redskins trademarks.

The lead plaintiff, Suzan Shown Harjo, said Friday the group will appeal.

“She ruled as we anticipated she would: for the loophole that would allow everyone to avoid the merits of the case,” said Harjo, president of the Washington-based Morning Star Institute that advances Native American causes.

Harjo and her fellow plaintiffs have been working since 1992 to have the Redskins trademarks declared invalid. They initially won — the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office panel canceled the trademarks in 1999 — but Kollar-Kotelly overturned the ruling in 2003 in part because the suit was filed decades after the first Redskins trademark was issued in 1967.

The U.S. Court of Appeals then sent the case back to Kollar-Kotelly, noting that the youngest of the plaintiffs was only 1 year old in 1967 and therefore could not have taken legal action at the time.

But Kollar-Kotelly’s new ruling rejects that possible argument. She wrote that the youngest plaintiff turned 18 in 1984 and therefore “waited almost eight years” after coming of age to join the lawsuit.

The judge did not address whether the Redskins name is offensive or racist. She wrote that her decision was not based on the larger issue of “the appropriateness of Native American imagery for team names.”

Well, from our point of view, “avoiding” the merits is the right thing for a judge to do when “mere technicalities” actually preclude a court’s legal authority to decide the merits.  But sooner or later, we’re going to have to deal with this claim, and the whole rat’s nest of problems arising from the “immoral and scandalous” provision of the Trademark Act.

Political Correctness Trademark Battle Continues

We haven’t heard the last of the fight over the Washington Redskins trademark fight. The AP reports that the earlier decision rejecting the challenge based partly on laches has been reversed in part.

indian.jpg

American Indian representatives don’t like the trademarks because “they are disparaging and bring Native Americans into disrepute.” Six and ten last season? Can’t blame them. On the other hand, if that kind of record gets the Indians upset, shouldn’t the Cowboys be suing, too?