By: Sheri Mason
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued a decision today cancelling six of the Washington Redskins’ registered trademarks, finding that the marks disparage Native Americans. In 2006, five Native Americans filed a petition to cancel the marks, which were registered between 1967 and 1990, on the grounds that the marks disparage Native Americans. The T.T.A.B. agreed, finding that the marks were disparaging to Native Americans at the time the marks were registered.
If Pro Football, Inc. decides to appeal the decision, the T.T.A.B. will suspend cancellation of the registrations pending a decision by the court, which may take years. If they do not appeal, the registrations will be cancelled at that point.
What does this mean for the Washington Redskins? While the T.T.A.B. has authority to cancel the registrations of the marks, it does not have the authority to issue a ruling concerning the use of the marks. Therefore, even if Pro Football, Inc. does not appeal and the registrations are cancelled, the T.T.A.B.’s decision does not prevent the Pro Football, Inc. from continuing to use the Washington Redskins mark as the name of its professional football team. This decision also does not mean that third parties may use the marks once the registrations are cancelled; Pro Football has well-established common law rights to the marks and can still prevent third-party use.
The full opinion can be found here.
For more information on trademarks, please feel free to contact Sheri.